Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to introduce Bill at third reading. Once passed, the proposed legislation will implement key measures from budget 2007 along with other tax initiatives that were announced prior to the budget.
Our goal is to help Canada and Canadians unleash an extraordinary potential. We are a successful, independent nation that believes in tolerance, justice and providing a helping hand to the less fortunate.
As the world changes, Canadians need to work together to make Canada even more prosperous and strong. We have a plan, “Advantage Canada”, that will take us there, and the measures in Bill are an integral part of that plan.
To that end, Bill proposes to invest an additional $39 billion over the next seven years to help the provinces and territories deliver the quality services that Canadians have come to expect from a country as great as ours.
It is difficult to visualize just how many dollars there are in $1 billion, so I will like to put it in a different perspective. A billion dollars is a thousand million and $39 billion would be 39 thousand million.
A billion hours ago, our ancestors were living in the stone age. A stack of one billion dollar bills will reach from the ground to 120 kilometres upward. If one sat down to count a billion dollar bills, and I would like that chore, and could count them at the rate of one per second, every second of every day, it would take more than 30 years to finish counting that one billion dollars.
If you earned $1,000 a day, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure you are worth that, you would take 2,740 years to earn $1 billion. If you had $1 billion and you spent $3,000 of it every day, and I am sure some of us would be able to do that, it would take 1,000 years to spend the whole $1 billion.
When I say that our government is putting $39 billion additional new money into the hands of provinces and territories to provide good services for Canadians, that is a lot of money, 39 billion new dollars. That will provide Canadians with health care, post-secondary education, new child care spaces, a clean environment and infrastructure like roads, bridges and public transit.
In addition, Bill contains a number of tax reduction measures that will improve the standard of living for Canadians. I am talking about the working family tax plan that will make it easier for working families to get ahead and stay ahead.
This plan includes a new $2,000 child tax credit that will provide up to $310 of tax relief for each child under 18 to more than three million Canadian families. The plan also increases the spousal and other amounts to the same level as the basic personal amount. This will provide up to $209 of tax relief to two parent families with one parent who earns little income.
Single parents and family members caring for dependants will also benefit. The working family tax plan helps families saving for their children's education by eliminating the $4,000 limit on annual contributions for registered education savings plans and increasing the lifetime contribution limit to $50,000 from $42,000. It also increases the maximum annual Canada education savings grants amount to $500 from $400.
As for our pensioners and seniors, the plan increases the age limit to 71 from 69 for registered retirement savings plans and registered pensions.
Bill also proposes to enact the tax fairness plan. This plan will provide tax assistance to our seniors by increasing the amount eligible for the age credit by $1,000, putting it up to $5,066. The plan will also help our seniors by allowing couples, for the very first time, to split their pension income. This represents tax savings of over $1 billion annually for Canadian pensioners and seniors.
Going forward, the government is committed to providing additional tax relief for individuals to improve the rewards from working, saving and investing.
Canada's new government has built on its commitment to implement the 10 year plan to strengthen health care, a plan that provides $41.3 billion in new federal funding over 10 years to provinces and territories.
In budget 2007 we built on that commitment. For example, the budget proposes an investment of $400 million for Canada Health Infoway, an organization that is making significant progress in working with provinces and territories to implement electronic health records. This initiative will help reduce wait times, reduce the risk of medical errors and lead to better health outcomes.
Furthermore, Bill proposes funding of up to $612 million to support all provinces and territories as they move forward with their commitment to implement patient wait times guarantees.
As we know, in July 2006 Canada's new government approved the use of a vaccine that provides protection for young girls and women against two types of human papillomavirus, or HPV. These viruses are responsible for approximately 70% of cancers of the cervix in Canada. This is the second most common cancer in women aged 20 to 44 after breast cancer, and that is a very disturbing statistic. That is why a measure from budget 2007 contained in the bill proposes to provide $300 million in per capita funding for provinces and territories to fight HPV.
Canada's new government has a comprehensive and results oriented plan to clean our air, help address climate change and create a healthier environment for Canadians. With that goal in mind, budget 2007 proposes to invest $4.5 billion toward a cleaner, healthier environment. Bill takes an important first step in that direction by proposing to provide more than $1.5 billion to a trust fund for initiatives undertaken by provinces and territories in support of clean air and climate change projects.
In addition, building on the initiatives taken in budget 2006, our government will strengthen conservation of sensitive land and species and preservation of our cultural and natural heritage. One such measure in Bill proposes $225 million for the Nature Conservancy of Canada to conserve ecologically sensitive land in southern Canada.
The bill also proposes $30 million in funding to support an innovative model of sustainable land and resource management development in the Great Bear Rain Forest on the central coast of British Columbia.
As members know, Genome Canada is a not for profit corporation that supports Canadian research leadership in genomics, a powerful emerging field, with the potential for significant advances in health care, sustainable development and in the environment. Since its creation, Genome Canada has been very successful at strengthening the genomics research environment in Canada, not only by attracting leading scientists but putting in place the advanced technology needed for genomics work.
Bill proposes to provide Genome Canada with an additional $100 million in 2006-07 to sustain funding to support, among other things, Canada's participation in strategic international research collaborations.
Bill contains a number of other important measures, none more important perhaps as the proposal to provide additional funding to help in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Canadians, as we all know, have played a significant role in supporting that country's efforts to build a free, democratic and peaceful country. That is why the bill proposes to provide $200 million in additional support for reconstruction and development of Afghanistan, with initiatives that create new opportunities for women, strengthen governments, enhance security and address the challenge of combatting illegal drugs.
We can see that Bill is a comprehensive bill, encompassing a broad range of initiatives to help Canadian succeed, to enhance important social services and to support our global contribution.
That is why timely passage of the bill is important. A number of measures in the bill will be lost if the bill does not receive royal assent by August 31, which for our purposes means by the time both the House and the other House rise in June. There are immediate and grave consequences which cannot be resolved in September. The money will be gone and the Liberals need to be aware of this, as well as all Canadians.
Let me explain this. Should the budget implementation act not receive royal assent before the government's financial statements are finalized in August, it will not be possible to account for these measures in 2006-07.
If the budget is not passed until the fall or later, the money for the measures, which I will mention, would have to be booked in 2007-08 from new money and to do so would have to compete with new demands.
The money from 2006-07 would by law have to go into the 2006-07 surplus and then be applied to the debt and not to program funding. Therefore, a number of measures would not go forward if the bill is not passed in a timely fashion.
Measures that would not go forward are: $1.5 billion for a Canada trust foundation for clean air and climate change; over half a billion dollars for patient wait time guarantees trust; $0.4 billion for the Canada Health Infoway; $0.1 billion for CANARIE; $0.2 billion for the Nature Conservancy of Canada; $0.3 billion for the Great Bear Rainforest; $0.6 billion for labour market agreements; $0.3 billion for the Rick Hansen Foundation; $0.1 billion in aid to Afghanistan; $100 million to Genome Canada; and $50 million to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
I mention all of this because there have been some bumps in the road, and some possible future bumps in the road, in both Houses of Parliament in ensuring that this important bill, which has been before us for some time, is passed in a timely manner. I do not think Canadians want to see these important measures I have just listed lost because parliamentarians cannot work together constructively for good things for Canada and Canadians.
I end by urging all members of both this House and the other place to give Bill their support in a timely manner, so the benefits can start to flow to Canadians as they should.
Mr. Speaker, I did not get a chance to ask my hon. colleague a question, but I will use up part of my time to do so.
When she talked about how important it was not to waste time in passing the budget, I would just point out that the government itself wasted three and a half weeks in the month of April when it withdrew its own budget from the legislative process. It is difficult to know, if she thinks it is so terribly important, why the government itself caused an unnecessary three and a half week delay. I want to put that on the record.
In terms of my own speech, I would like to focus on two themes regarding this budget: incompetence and dishonesty. It is an incompetent budget in the sense that the minister is out of his depth, and it is a dishonest budget in a number of senses, including not merely broken promises but the denial that those promises were in fact broken, and in some cases the denial of the undeniable, not to mention as well the repeated statements of things that clearly are not true, like saying that the government has cut income tax when everybody knows that it has raised income tax.
I would like to pursue these two themes. In doing so, I realize that there are other things one could say about the budget. One could say that it is a meanspirited budget in its treatment of aboriginal people or children or students or all of the above. I also realize that these themes of incompetence and dishonesty could be applied to other aspects of the behaviour of this government, like the environment or Afghanistan, but in the time allotted to me I would like to focus exclusively on the budget and exclusively on these two particular themes.
Before I go into detail, let me say something about language. I have been in the business of reading budgets and commenting on budgets for quite a few years, long before I went into politics, and I have noticed that those commenting on the budget, the economic analysts and specialists, generally use language that is respectful and even deferential. They use very moderate words.
When I went through the commentary applied to this budget over the last several weeks, I made a collection of some of the adjectives that these normally very sober analysts have used to describe the budget. Some of these words are the following: unbelievable, worst in 35 years, nut job, stupid, clueless, insane, and idiotic.
I have been at this kind of thing for more years than I would care to think about and never in my life have I heard words of that nature applied to the budget of a Government of Canada. I would suggest that this is indirect evidence that the extremity of the language of people unaccustomed to such language is matched by the extremity of the incompetence that would provoke such language from people unaccustomed to using such words, unless, that is, for some unexplained reason, there was a sudden contagious outburst of rudeness from economic analysts and economists.
I would like to give six examples of areas in which we see this combination of incompetence and dishonesty.
For the first of those, one has to go back in history a bit to when the was a very senior member of the Ontario government. The Conservatives were running an election on a balanced budget. After they lost the election and the auditors came in, it turned out that there was a $5.8 billion deficit. Here we have that combination displayed nicely, because to run a $5.8 billion deficit is in itself incompetent, but it is dishonest to pretend that it is a balanced budget when in fact one knows it is a deficit. That is dishonesty. That was the first revelation, if members like, of that combination.
The second example I would use is the government's decision to raise income taxes in order to pay for a GST cut. That is incompetent in the sense that there is not an economist on the planet who would say that is a sensible thing to do. I think there are very few Canadians who would rather have a penny off the price of a cup of coffee than more money in their wallets through an income tax cut.
It also reflects the dishonesty theme. While everyone in the country knew that their income tax had been raised, the government persisted in saying that it had been cut even though all the tax return forms that Canadians fill out clearly stated the opposite.
Perhaps we could even say I am naive to be shocked by this but when the government of the day persists, not just once but time after time in making a statement that is self-evidently false, it is damaging to the political class, all of us in this Chamber. In some sense, Canadians will say that it is normal for politicians to say things that they know to be wrong. I do not think that is how politicians generally or ought to behave. Therefore, I do take offence when a government takes what is obviously a tax increase and repeatedly claims that it is a tax cut.
The third example I would mention is the federal-provincial relations and the whole situation of equalization which we heard about in some detail today. I would like to give a particularly interesting quote from the in his budget. He said:
|| The long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over.
That is a very definitive statement. We would not have known that from question period today. People say that a successful budget is out of the news cycle in three days. I think we are on about day 80 and it was certainly in the question period cycle. It displays an extraordinary naïveté to think that any amount of money paid to the provinces would, in some magical sense, bring to a permanent end the long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering.
However, and perhaps more to the point, we have three clearly broken promises. We have three commitments made by the government to three provincial governments, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan, and those commitments were clearly broken. What we see, and we have seen it for a number of weeks, is that the government persists in denying that it broke those agreements.
We would not have had an hon. member taking the huge step of voting against his own government and being kicked out of his own caucus if there were any doubt as to whether that agreement had been broken. We have a double set of dishonesty in breaking the promises and then in denying that those promises were broken.
There is another kind of dishonesty here. This is what we might call playing with numbers. We hear the finance minister quote these hundreds of millions of dollars that will go to this province or that province. However, we in the finance committee had the pleasure of listening to Premier Calvert of Saskatchewan last week or the week before. He went through in some detail how these numbers were just meaningless, a mish-mash. He said that the moneys would have gone to Saskatchewan anyway. He said that they were measured over five or ten years and that they were just concocted in whatever way was convenient for the government to come up with a number that sounds big.
There was a similar experience with the Canada-Ontario agreement where the government concocted numbers in a meaningless way to pretend that it was paying a lot of money to the Province of Ontario.
Perhaps it is because I am an economist, but I like to get numbers from the Department of Finance of the Government of Canada that I can trust. The way the government concocts its numbers just to serve whatever purpose it has in mind at any given moment, takes away that confidence in those numbers.
Related to that was the net debt gimmick. Some may remember that. Suddenly the government came out with the statement, “We are going to wipe out, abolish the net debt. Canada will be net debt free”, as if we were supposed to all jump up and applaud. It is some arcane thing that it dragged up from the OECD.
We have noticed that the government never talks about it anymore. It never talks about it anymore because it was so ridiculed that it had to put that back into the cupboard. All it was doing was manipulating statistics to pretend to Canadians that something was different when in fact nothing had changed.
The government is playing with numbers, whether it is manipulating Saskatchewan numbers, manipulating Canada-Ontario agreement numbers or taking the arcane concept of net debt and pretending it is doing something new and different. It is a gimmick. This is the kind of behaviour that I object to.
My fourth point involves interest deductibility, which is where we have a real disaster for the government. A statement that is in the budget could not be more crystal clear. It states that as of a certain date companies would no longer be allowed to deduct for tax purposes interest on money they borrowed to invest abroad.
Since the whole financial world came tumbling down on the minister, it became apparent to the minister that he had done something really stupid. He had neglected to point out that all other major countries allow their companies to deduct interest and, therefore, if Canada alone did not allow that to happen, our companies would be put at a huge competitive disadvantage and become more susceptible to takeover. He would then be creating disadvantaged Canada instead of advantage Canada, and the minister caved.
Do members know how the minister caved? I now come to honesty. He did not say that he was sorry that he had made a mistake. He said that everybody misinterpreted his budget. He said that everybody except himself had read the budget wrong. He said that none of us understood the budget except him. We know the effect of that. All of those thousands of tax experts who were down the minister's throat for doing something so stupid in the budget, as this interest deductibility measure, were all angry at him because he said that they had misread the budget. He could not admit that he was changing something. These analysts are all angry at the minister, which is not a very good position for a minister to put himself in and it is not very smart.
My main point is that this is another example of the sneaky dishonesty that we see again and again from the Conservative government.
My last point on interest deductibility is that having incompetently introduced a measure, which he had to withdraw but did not have the courage to say that he was withdrawing, the minister then withdrew it in an incompetent manner. There are two issues here: something called debt dumping and something called double-dipping.
I think the minister likes the sound of double-dipping because it sounds somehow evil and immoral so he wants to attack double-dipping. The problem is that every expert across the country says that the abuse does not come from double-dipping but from debt dumping. If the minister knew what he was doing, which he did not, he would have attacked debt dumping.
Debt dumping means that a foreign subsidiary can come into Canada, borrow huge amounts of money, deduct the interest from the debt so as to reduce its Canadian tax and then invest that money in some third country. This is a way to escape Canadian taxes inappropriately. There are some abuses there and we should crack down on them.
However, the way the minister is attacking double-dipping, the net effect will likely be an increase in the revenues of the Government of the United Kingdom or the Government of the United States. It is as if the minister's goal is to increase the revenues of foreign governments at the expense of Canadian companies, which makes no sense whatsoever.
Interest deductibility is a very good example. First, it shows that the minister is out of his depth in introducing the measure in the first place. Second, the manner in which he withdrew it, pretending that he was not withdrawing it and pretending that everyone else in the country misread the budget in the first place, shows a lack of straightforwardness in his behaviour. Third, when he attacks the wrong target, attacks double-dipping when he should be attacking debt dumping, that shows a second level of incompetence.
The fifth problem I would like to focus on is the extraordinarily incompetent design of the feebate program. It is rare that an industry, when given a tax break or a subsidy, would be up in arms against it, but that is exactly what happened. The auto industry did not complain so much about the extra costs imposed on gas guzzlers. It was up in arms at the rebate the government gave to the energy efficient cars because 75% of that money was focused on one model ,which was not very different, environmentally speaking, from the next model.
I want to quote one individual, a well-known expert on the auto sector, Dennis DesRosiers, who is normally one of those experts who uses very moderate language. He said:
|| (Honda) felt so slighted by this stupid ‘feebate’ that they have ... come out guns ablazing”.... “The feds now not only have a policy in place that does not work, they have also turned the company most willing to work ... to address the auto issues of the day into an advertising juggernaut criticizing the federal government's policies.”
The government has created enemies of all the tax analysts by telling them that they did not know how to read the budget, and now it is creating enemies in the auto industry in trying to give it rebates. Talk about incompetence.
Finally, last but not least, I come to the subject of income trusts. This is the mother of all broken promises but, as I said at the beginning, the government not only breaks promises but, once it breaks a promise, it denies it broke the promise. It denies the undeniable.
I had forgotten this but in the early days of the income trust debate, the government denied that it had broken a promise. That did not last very long because it was obvious that the had said it clearly in the election many times. In the early days, I have a quote from the responding on November 1, the day after Halloween when the policy was announced. The said:
|| The commitment of this party was not that we would have no taxes for Telus. It was a commitment to protect the income of seniors.
|| The Minister of Finance has brought in an age credit. He has brought in pension splitting. He is imposing fair taxes on the corporate community. I challenge the Liberal Party to support those things.
I had thought earlier today that was one promise that he could not deny but he tried. He tried for a day or two by saying that it was all about tax fairness. He then gave up because it was so impossible. He did acknowledge that he broken the promise on income trusts. However, my colleague has probably forgotten that in the early days he actually denied that he had broken the promise on income trusts.
I only have two minutes but I think I have spoken enough over the last several weeks on the subject of income trusts that I am able to summarize it fairly easily. This was not only a broken promise but it was a nuclear bomb dropped on the industry, when the Liberal plan, which was a more surgical plan, would have done the job correctly and which still will do the job correctly once the Liberals come to power.
It was a comedy of unintended consequences. Advantage Canada became disadvantage Canada. Tax fairness became tax unfairness. An attempt to get more revenue for the government, because of its incompetence, turned into less revenue for the government. The income trust issue was not only an example of broken promises and, in that sense, dishonesty, it is perhaps exhibit A in terms of a government that is out of its depth.
We have not abandoned our struggle for the appropriate policy on income trusts and, because of this combination of gross incompetence and gross dishonesty, the Liberals, one and all, will be very proud to vote against this budget.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak again about the budget tabled in this House earlier in the session.
Earlier today, during the previous two speeches, mention was made of the fiscal imbalance. That makes me laugh. I listened carefully to the speeches and did not get involved in the debate between the Liberals and the Conservatives on the fiscal imbalance, because the Liberals have always refused to admit that the fiscal imbalance exists and the Conservatives claim that it has been fixed.
Here is the Conservative technique for correcting the fiscal imbalance: the gets up in the House and reads his budget. While reading, he simply says that the fiscal imbalance has now been corrected once and for all. That is all there is to it. The Conservatives believe that they just have to keep on repeating the same thing and it will come true.
This is not the case, however. Serving the public and doing the work we do in the House takes more than words: it takes action.
Let us review the basics of the fiscal imbalance. This concept was first defined and discussed in Quebec by the Séguin commission, which carefully examined the matter. This has always been a Bloc Québécois issue. At the time, only the Bloc talked about it; the other parties denied that it existed. We started explaining to the Conservatives what it was all about. We have made progress, but they still do not understand what it is all about because they claim to have solved it.
When the members of the Séguin commission defined the concept of fiscal imbalance, they did not pick a name for it out of a hat. They did not open the dictionary to a certain page and point to some words when they named it fiscal imbalance. It was not an arbitrary choice.
There were reasons. First, it is an imbalance. Second, the nature of this imbalance is fiscal. It was not a monetary or budgetary issue. Basically the central government, the federal government, had too much tax revenue, too great a fiscal capacity, in relation to the requirements and the jurisdictions established by the Constitution. On the other side, the governments of Quebec and of the other provinces do not have a large enough tax base to assume all the responsibilities provided for in said Constitution. This is so true that the federal government generates significant surpluses year after year and takes the liberty, with each budget—including the Conservative budgets, no matter what the Conservatives say—to meddle in the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces.
I would like to point out that if the federal government's fiscal capacity were not greater than its needs, it would not feel the need to interfere in provincial jurisdictions. In fact, it could not do so. Nonetheless, since it has too much fiscal capacity, too much money, it goes ahead and interferes in provincial jurisdictions. In the meantime, Quebec and the provinces do not have enough funding or a large enough tax base to meet all their needs. They are facing an increasingly precarious situation.
That is what is happening. The fiscal imbalance exists. The only solution to this fiscal imbalance is a tax transfer. This seems logical enough to me. I meet a lot of people in my riding. On the weekend I went to a sidewalk sale on Wellington Street in my riding to meet with people and talk to them. When I tell them we need to correct the fiscal imbalance with a tax transfer, almost everyone understands the principle quickly enough: fiscal imbalance and tax transfer seems logical enough to them.
The Conservatives are the only ones who do not understand, or at least not the Conservatives from Quebec. The Liberals and the New Democrats do not recognize the principle either, but the Conservatives have not really delivered the goods. They made a significant budgetary transfer; that is true. This will provide Quebec with supplementary sources of revenue. That is the reason we supported the budget. We have done our job.
The Bloc Québécois fought hard for this funding. The government has made progress and transferred funding to Quebec. We have decided to support the budget. This is a good illustration of the Bloc's importance. During the latest votes on the budget we noticed how quiet the Conservatives were when the Bloc Québécois voted in favour of their budget. They were well aware that they need us to make their Parliament work.
So there is no tax transfer in this budget. That is clear. In committee I asked the minister and his officials about this. Everyone admitted that there was no tax transfer. There were only budget transfers. What everyone also admitted was that nothing guarantees that this money will be there next year, or any other year. This is so true that the Conservative Party is even paying big bucks to advertise on television in Quebec, saying that if the Leader of the Opposition became prime minister, he could take back the money. By saying this, the Conservatives are admitting that this is not a permanent or definitive solution and that Quebec is still dependent on the federal government for this money. All Quebeckers, federalists and sovereignists alike, from all parties in the National Assembly, want to be free of this dependence. We want to be able to count on autonomous revenues and do not want to always be subject to the whims of the federal government.
The solution for Quebec is to get back either the tax fields—like the GST—or tax points, which will ensure stable, predictable revenues that will grow over time with the economy and will be fair and equitable.
In short, there are some benefits in this budget that are due to the fact that this is a minority government. It needed the support of the Bloc Québécois, because Quebeckers decided to send a strong contingent of members to Ottawa. The government had to give more resources to Quebec. We supported the budget, but the fiscal imbalance has not yet been corrected. There is still much work to be done, and we will continue to do what is necessary to defend the interests of Quebeckers.
Mr. Speaker, this is just about the last time we will have a chance to speak about the 2007 budget. We are drawing near the end but without losing hope that we can try to persuade the government to make amends for the errors it has made along this journey.
We have just seen a living example of that today in this House with the member for , who stood up in the House today as an independent to speak for his province and his region against a government, his own government and his own party, that has broken its word and has failed miserably to address the needs of Atlantic Canada.
That member stood in the House today to plead with the government to reconsider, to simply stand up and say “we made a mistake and our word is good”, to say that the agreement it signed will be kept and that Atlantic Canadians can count on the government to be there as it promised.
It is not too much to ask, is it, when we consider what is involved? It is a written commitment from the government to the provinces of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador and it is an agreement with the province of Saskatchewan. These are agreements to address the fact that these are provinces in the developing stages of accessing their raw resources and oil and gas revenues.
It was not an extraordinary request today. It was based on an agreement. It was based on an understanding for the good of the country and for the good of those regions that are developing their resources and which need and have asked for and received from the government the agreement to develop those resources without being hurt in an equalization formula, without seeing a clawback at a time when they most need the revenue.
They are not asking for a favour to go to regions forever and a day, but simply that the government's word be kept, that an agreement be maintained so that those provinces could reap the benefits of their resources and ensure that in fact the very difficult economic and social circumstances being faced in those provinces would finally be dealt with.
This is the story of this budget. It is hard to believe that it has only been since March 19 that we have been dealing with this, because there have been so many issues.
Each and every day some problem has emerged, some new development has occurred, some story has been developed and some line changed, whether we are talking about the Atlantic accords or the deal with Saskatchewan and the promises broken by the government, or whether we are dealing with the change of heart with respect to interest deductibility and the earlier commitment by the government to crack down on corporate tax avoidance, or whether we are talking about the failure of the government to meet its commitment to our original peoples and to respond in the face of a very explosive situation.
The government has failed to act and has only compounded the problems and made the situation worse.
We are here making our last plea for the government to come to its senses in a number of areas. We do not expect that we will agree on everything, but we are asking the government to deal with some very critical issues and to make some significant changes in this budget.
The fundamental problem with this Conservative budget is that it has failed to be honest with the Canadian people, just as the budgets of the previous Liberal government failed to be honest with the Canadian people. As a result, decisions have been made in the absence of full democratic participation. Decisions have been made that will set back the human development of this country many years.
Decisions have been made that will prevent the Conservative government from taking action when human crises emerge. Today we are hearing news of such looming crises, some actually happening before our very eyes. The news out of British Columbia about floods in Skeena--Bulkley Valley is mind-boggling.
Some of us can remember what it was like when we went through the flood of the century in Manitoba. We remember the way the Liberal government spurned us in our time of need. I remember how former prime minister Jean Chrétien came into my riding and threw one sandbag, un sac de sable, and continued on with his election despite the crying need of Manitobans.
The people overcame. The people persevered. The people of Winnipeg, with the help of volunteers from all parts of the country, with the help of members of the armed forces and with the commitment by the local and provincial governments, averted a situation of most dire consequences.
Will this be the case when it comes to British Columbia today? Does the government have the flexibility, the foresight and the compassion to actually intervene in this very difficult situation? As we speak, artifacts are being evacuated from the Ksan Historical Village. Hundreds of families are awaiting flood notice, from B.C.'s northwest to the Fraser Valley.
This situation demands swift federal action. Has it happened? Have we heard anything? Has the government moved to help people who are being evacuated or to help prevent the loss of precious artifacts that are part of our original peoples' history? Is this a priority for the government? That is the big question mark today.
At a time when we are looking at a budget and dealing with the needs of this country through the fiscal means of the state, surely we can expect the government to immediately announce a plan of attack to deal with this kind of situation. We have not heard a word yet.
I will raise another issue. Just this week we learned of tellers who work at the CIBC in this country being forced to begin a lawsuit to get money that is owed to them because they worked overtime and have never been compensated for that overtime. This is at a time when the profits of the big banks have never been so great, when the compensation packages, payouts and executive salaries of the CEOs of our five major banks have never been so exorbitant and enormous, and this is at a time when the vast majority of workers at these banks are being exploited, taken advantage of and not being paid their rightful salaries.
We're talking about the budget.
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: I hear my friend from Burlington asking if this is in the budget.
What's this got to do with the budget?
Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis: My goodness, of course this is in the budget.
A budget is about ensuring that everyone in this country is paid for his or her worth and is allowed the opportunity to work in jobs that are fulfilling and meaningful and that support families to ensure they can be productive members of our society. That is the purpose of a budget.
It is not about giving more leeway to the big banks so their profits can grow. It is not about loosening the ties of government so that the free market will reign in every aspect of our society without due regard for human condition. It is about ensuring a balance between the needs of the people of this land and the desirable position of preserving our environment and this earth for the future and for future generations.
That is what a budget is all about and, on this front and on every aspect relating to a budget, the government has failed. It has failed in terms of providing for a long term strategy to deal with the explosion of corporate takeovers in this country. It has failed to address the enormous loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector.
It has failed to respond in any way to the rising dollar, which is now almost on par with the American dollar, creating serious problems in many parts of this country. Yet the government and the simply sit back and let the governor of the Bank of Canada suggest that all is well, that all they need to do is raise interest rates and keep our focus on inflation no matter the human consequences. He sits back and does nothing. There is not a peep from the government, the or anyone on the government benches about the impact of the rising dollar on our economy.
I am not here to suggest that there are any easy answers. There are not, but there is one area where there are answers and it lies in a budget. A budget is supposed to provide the resources to compensate for those kinds of economic circumstances that might be beyond our control. It is about investing strategically in our economy so we are equipped in strategic sectors, in specialized ways, to create products, to provide jobs and to create trade.
This budget does not do that. This budget hardly touches this whole area of jobs, the economy, training, education, work and child care. It is basically a budget that has decided to take every available surplus dollar and do what the Liberals did for 13 years, which is to lowball the budget, not tell Canadians the kind of money they have and put it against the debt.
What have we just seen with this budget under the Conservatives? Between this budget and last year, $22 billion has gone against the debt, even though when all of that is factored in we will not be much closer to a reduced debt to GDP ratio than if we had taken that money and invested it in areas that deal with serious economic and social issues and also grow the economy.
This budget is absolute foolishness when it comes to fiscal prudence. It is absolutely wrong-headed. It is a lost opportunity. I again will remind members in this House that they would never in a million years pay off their mortgage if the roof was leaking, because they know that if they let the roof keep leaking the house would be destroyed, and so what if it is all paid off? There is no house left.
The same is true of a country. The same is true of families, neighbourhoods and communities. If we take away the very means by which people can survive and provide for themselves and their families, and can contribute to their communities by being involved in volunteer organizations and can use their skills to work in meaningful jobs that pay enough just to keep one's head above water, then there is no country left. Can the government understand what we are talking about?
The government should take some of that money and say that it owes it to the first nations of this country, the Métis and the Inuit to start to address the historic deficiencies caused by government after government. If it started in fact to invest in those programs that would allow aboriginal people to be full participating members of our society, we would be a heck of a lot further along.
Would we be standing here today hearing about a potentially explosive situation if this budget had done a single thing to meet the needs of aboriginal people? This budget does not do a thing to redress the historic imbalances and deficiencies caused by previous governments, particularly the last several Liberal governments.
Would we be here today if just a portion of that $22 billion had gone to deal with third world conditions on reserves? There is mould, fungus, and contaminants growing in people's houses. Communities have roads washed out and food prices going through the ceiling. We have people living in the most decrepit conditions.
Would we still be facing a potentially violent situation, a potentially explosive situation? Of course not. People react to the conditions around them. When the world ignores a whole community's condition and refuses to deal with historical injustice and takes no steps to give hope, then we create those conditions for eruption and upheaval in our society today.
We have dealt with this at the finance committee. Mr. Jock from the AFN was at our committee. When he was asked what do we do now that the federal government has put no money into aboriginal affairs and the communities are up in arms, what do we do to fulfill our responsibilities as a nation? He said, “just give us some hope”. He was not asking for the moon. He said, “give us some hope that we can convey to our communities, so we have the possibilities of building again”.
What if the government had taken a portion of that $22 billion and invested it in a few more child care spaces? Then a mother today who has to work would not be scrambling to try to figure out how to care for her child and earn a living that she must just to stay alive. Instead, the government is putting that family in jeopardy.
Does the government want to pay now or pay later? No one here is saying take all the money and spend it. We are saying put some money against the debt, put some money against programs that have been cutback by Liberals, and put some money into strategic areas that will grow the economy, such as the infrastructure deficit.
We have the silliness of this tax back guarantee which will mean a few dollars for Canadians and not mean very much in terms of their economic well-being and their ability to survive, but it would mean a lot if it is pooled and will grow the economy, and deal with the deficit at the infrastructure level. There is so much we can do. The government has failed miserably.