Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before I was interrupted by question period, this agenda item, this mini-budget, this statement by the government takes Canada in the wrong direction.
It is not a balanced approach to the way that we should be doing business in this place on behalf of Canadians and communities across this country. We had in front of us what we believe in the NDP caucus an unprecedented opportunity to invest in people and their communities.
The government has failed to do that. In failing to do that, the real disappointment is that the only caucus in this place to stand up and say so and vote consistently against that agenda item has been the New Democratic caucus. We have had the support of the Bloc from time to time.
Certainly, it has been telling that the Liberal caucus has not found it within its wish to actually stand up and vote against this budget. The Liberals have sat on their hands on at least three occasions that I can remember when they had an opportunity to say to the government that it was going in the wrong direction, that this is not the right agenda, that this is an unbalanced approach, and that it will hurt communities and people.
This budget will hurt working families across this country. This may sound strange coming from a New Democrat, but this was an opportunity for targeted tax relief for those who needed it most. The government has failed to do that.
The government failed to recognize even in the industrial realm which sectors of our industry needed help the most. The budget gives relief to big banks, to the oil industry and to insurance companies. The budget did nothing and it will do nothing as it rolls out for the manufacturing sector. Communities such as Hamilton, St. Catharines, Winnipeg and Sault Ste. Marie and others, that are being damaged by the downsizing in the manufacturing sector, will continue to feel that pain.
There will be no help coming from the federal government because there is nothing in this mini-budget. There was nothing in the previous budget and nothing in the Conservative's agenda to give communities any hope that the government will come to the table and be a partner, and participate in some kind of a restructuring and realigning of their fortunes.
It is for these reasons and the many others that my colleagues have laid out in front of this place and will continue to lay out over the next number of days, that we in the New Democratic Party caucus will be voting against this mini-budget.
Travelling the country over the last couple of years, I have met with community groups and leaders, and people struggling to make ends meet. I have met with the poor, with advocates on behalf of the poor, and with the poverty communities across Canada.
There is a reality out there that conditions are getting worse by the day. This is supported by all kinds of analysis and studies done by the National Council on Welfare, the Canadian Council on Social Development, NAPO and KAIROS. These are all well meaning groups. They are hard-working and committed groups in this country that have been working for years to try to deal with poverty, this unnecessary reality, in this wealthy country.
These groups say to us that corporations do not need tax cuts and tax breaks. What we need to be doing is investing in those institutions that will support Canadians and that will help Canadians and their children to make ends meet. Canadians need help looking after their health needs, getting their children into education, so that they can do better for themselves.
Canadians need affordable, clean and safe housing. Canadians need to be provided with the drugs that they need when they are sick. They also need the child care that is so necessary, both for the children's growth and development, as well as for those families where the parents want to get out and participate in the workforce without it costing them an arm and a leg. The government is not going there and it is not doing all these things.
The other really disturbing, unfolding reality that I discovered over the last couple of years, and perhaps it is because of the way our economy is evolving in Canada, is the low wage jobs that are being created, as opposed to the well paid jobs that were previously in the manufacturing sector.
We have more and more people working harder, working longer hours, and working full time all year living in poverty. We have a large group of people who actually have decent jobs who are feeling very insecure in those jobs. They do not know from one week to the next whether they will have their job next month or the month after.
They are a paycheque or two away from actually experiencing some pretty difficult circumstances themselves. Where a month, or six months, or years ago they could work hard, make investments, get an education, look ahead to bettering themselves and creating a better situation for their children, they are now beginning to look over their shoulder. They are not looking ahead any more. They are wondering what if they lose their job, what if a paycheque does not come in, what happens to them, and what is there for them?
The most obvious example of the damage that has been done, not necessarily by the current government but by the previous Liberal government was when it changed the rules that governed how we delivered the employment insurance program. In fact, many will not qualify and will end up in some pretty meagre, desperate welfare situation.
The social safety net that all of us over a number of years wove, because it was the Canadian thing to do for each other, for our neighbours, for our family members, for our friends, and for all of those people who call Canada home, has now disappeared.
As these people look over their shoulder they are beginning to see, as we have seen and have been trying to point out to this place and I have been trying to point out in my travels and through my focus on eradicating poverty and reducing poverty, that the social safety net is not there any more.
We have had an opportunity for the last 10 years at least in this country to make serious investments in those areas such as child care, housing, post-secondary education, and the health care system which is falling apart as we speak. We had an opportunity in all of those things that go to making sure that absolutely everyone has those fundamental necessary supports we have to have if we are going to be healthy, if we are going to look after our children, and if we are going to participate in the economy. Unfortunately, they are not there any more.
If we believe the economists who have done the analysis of this mini-budget and the budget of the government, we are going to be relieving the government of a capacity that is anywhere from $6 billion to $12 billion a year. After this budget goes through, this money will no longer available to government to invest.
If we pile that on top of the corporate tax breaks the Liberals gave to their friends and benefactors over the 13 years they were in power, that is a substantial amount of money. That could have done a lot of good. That could have created the kind of Canada that we can only imagine, that the world in many places thinks that we are, but in fact the reality is different.
We still have time. We have a couple of days here. We are hoping that the Conservatives will listen. We know that the Liberals have given up. They have virtually, if not physically, mentally gone home for the holidays. But we are here and we are going to be here, and we are going to get up on our feet, every last one of us. We are going to speak to this bill and we are going to put on the table those very real concerns.
We are going to speak about those concerns based on our experiences, out of the work we are doing, out of the travel across the province, out of going back to our community every weekend and talking to those men and women, talking to those families, talking to those institutions, and talking to community leaders who are telling us a very different story than the Conservatives are wanting to roll out in front of us as they have when they presented this budget.
They are no longer getting up in the House either because they want to get home for the Christmas holidays as well. They do not want to do the--
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill one more time and I do so because of the significance of the implications for my riding of . Clearly Hamilton East—Stoney Creek and the entire community of Hamilton have a lot vested in the budget document, more because of what it does not do than what it does do.
Before I comment directly on Bill , I will like to take a few moments in response to—
Hon. Jim Flaherty: What have you got against people with families? What have you got against people with disabilities?
Mr. Wayne Marston: I will not respond to that. It is beneath contempt.
I will take a few moments to comment on the remarks that came from the Conservative member for this morning. He spoke to the positives he saw in Bill . I understand his perspective. It is the government perspective and the benefits as he sees them. He advised the House, as we heard again in question period, of 388,000 jobs, mostly full time he said, created in the country this year.
To me that begged the question. In which sectors was there this exciting job growth and could the people in the companies of the manufacturing sector expect a plan from the government to protect the existing jobs and to help create new ones in one of the core sectors of Canada's economy? To the present time, I have not been informed as to where these jobs have been created and in which sectors. I look forward to hearing that news at some point.
However, during the remarks by the member for , he offered the words to the effect that the Conservative government had taken a decision not to favour one sector over another to provide tax relief to address growth in all of Canada.
I nearly jumped out of my chair at those words. The manufacturing sector in Canada, particularly in my community, is in crisis. We are being told that they are not being favoured. We never asked to be favoured. We have asked for a plan for a strategy from the government to address the needs of this core sector of our economy to assist them and their companies.
In this modern age we often hear the words “a holistic approach to issues and problems”. Quite often that refers to health, but I suggest this is what is needed relative to dealing with our manufacturing crisis today.
The Conservative government simply has to get with the times. If it believes it can deal with our economy solely by tax cuts and then let the chips fall, Reaganomics, or the economics of trickle down, has been discredited and has been branded a failure worldwide. The government must step back from this simplistic approach to economics, step back from the tax cuts for the rich corporations, hoping something trickles down to the ordinary hard-working Canadian.
The government must move to a place where it begins to operate with that holistic view of running the country, an approach which ensures everyone benefits together, not the rich first and something else for the rest at another time, but to where everyone together benefits from the great wealth of the country.
Twenty per cent of my community live in abject poverty. They want to work but do not have a job and cannot even begin to find one. They know the bill does not one thing for them. The question is this. Who are these favoured companies and favoured corporations referred to by the member for . Without reading a single word of this statement, without a single economics course, because they have been well trained by previous Liberal governments, Canadians can tell us that it is the banks and big oil and gas companies that will reap the benefits immediately from Bill , just like they did for years under the Liberals.
The member for also talked about the NDP mended Liberal budget of 2005. I did say mended, not amended. That is because we mended it by taking $4 billion plus from the corporate tax cuts and forced the Liberals to put these saved dollars, saved fiscal capacity, into transit, and I see this in Hamilton today with new ecobuses on the street, into education and into housing, the same housing we heard the Conservatives taking credit for just earlier today in the House.
Now the Liberals, who are finally seeing the dollars put together in the budget for their corporate friends, are going to sit on their hands. They are not going to stop this.
The needs today are pressing and will worsen in the future. What is missed by so many here, or they are at least hiding from it, is the lost fiscal capacity of the country. What I found interesting was seeing the government members spend so much time this spring taking credit for the dollars flowing from that NDP modified budget. Again, we heard that repeated in the House earlier today.
With Bill , as with the previous Liberal government, the Conservatives are continuing their corporate welfare program, with large corporate tax breaks very similar to the ones proposed in 2005 by the Liberals. It is estimated that these corporate tax breaks will reduce tax income for our country by $14 billion a year.
This obvious concern should arise for the Liberals. As I said, what about the lost fiscal capacity of the federal government in years to come? We know and members will have heard repeatedly throughout this debate that Canadian cities are facing a huge infrastructure problem.
I want to reiterate that the Federation of Canadian Municipalities demonstrated in its recent report that there is an infrastructure deficit of $123 billion. I have not heard one word in the House to refute that report. Nobody is saying that it is inaccurate. Nobody is saying that it is not true. In fact, it is almost like it does not exist. I cannot understand how the Conservatives can ignore it. How can the Liberals let them? This is beyond belief.
I am going to take a moment to offer a suggestion to the government. I have already spoken about the common sense of Canadians and how a number of them in my riding of have been quick to point out to me their surprise when they see that the Conservative government, with its surpluses, is not prepared to invest in my community's needs and community needs across the country.
The government is not prepared, in the words of my constituents, to use common sense to prepare for our future and to repair some of the infrastructure from our past. The people of my riding understand the need to pay down debt, but they cannot begin to understand why such huge payments are being budgeted when there is already so much need in the country.
There is the need to address the infrastructure problem. There is a need for affordable housing. We heard the member for talk of the tragedy of homelessness across the country. We have heard that 42 people died last year as a result of homelessness. There is also a need for a national drug program.
However, the embarrassing level of poverty in the country is the one piece that should be the catalyst for anybody and any government to act. I have offered that small piece of advice to the government.
Another small piece that I would offer is the need to deal immediately with the $500 per year mistake. Senior are owed that. I think it would be incumbent upon the government to act on that immediately and pay seniors what they are owed.
If there is any reason to redirect the wealth of the country into new programs aimed at eliminating poverty for thousands of men, women and children, I would have to say that this is the reason I stand in the House repeatedly on Bill . In many cases, I am repeating many of the words I have said before, but they have to be repeated over and over again until the shame of poverty in Canada is eliminated.
I had breakfast today with the High Commissioner of India. Many Canadians have a view of India as a desperately poor country, but that country has a strategy such that it is setting about the elimination of poverty in India by the year 2020. Whether it succeeds or not, the very fact that India has that concerted effort is an example that this country must follow.
We had the grand vision of eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. We need another grand vision for Canada. We need leadership from the government and we need it to address poverty now.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill and to express my opposition to it.
It is a fundamentally wrong direction for Canada. It is explicable that the Conservatives, who tend to take us in the wrong direction, could present an economic statement of this manner to the people of Canada and therefore bring in this bill, but it is impossible for me to understand how the opposition could de facto support this direction, which is absolutely the wrong one for Canada. I want to elaborate on my concerns about this statement and why I believe it is the wrong direction.
As I said earlier, one of my major concerns is around the tax cuts and what they mean in terms of eroding the resources that we need collectively to build this country. If we want to not only maintain our standard of living, maintain our industrial sector, maintain a level of civil society, but also to improve all of those things, and improve the environment and improve our social climate, and deal with the major issues facing us today, and improve our economic standing in the world, then gutting our fiscal capacity to act is not the way to do it. I want to address the very serious issue of tax cuts.
This statement continues not only the present government's but also the previous Liberal government's mistaken path of huge corporate tax cuts and other tax cuts. It takes us down the wrong path for Canada. Over the next five years the revenue that pays for the things Canadians say they want, the programs and services, and all of the things we tell each other we want, will drop by $60 billion based just on this economic statement.
I remember when there was a huge debate because the previous government failed to bring in a national child care program that was going to cost us $2 billion. What a terrible shame that with all of these resources we have failed to invest in our children.
There are cuts to the GST, to personal income taxes and to corporate income taxes. The latter, which by 2012 will drop to 15% from 21% today, is really an outrageous corporate giveaway. This notion of having to attract investment, cut taxes lower and lower and do away with more and more for the people of our country is nothing but a race to the bottom. It really is quite unworthy of a developed country such as Canada.
As I said earlier in the House, this latest economic statement really is the continuation of a 20 year race to the bottom in terms of trying to cut our way to prosperity which clearly has not worked. It diminishes our country.
There has been a conscious plan by the current Conservative government and previous Liberal governments over the last 20 years. They were supposed to have been looking out for the interests of our country and yet they have cut $250 billion out of the fiscal capacity of this country, out of the revenue we need to act on behalf of Canadians and in fact build our country.
I ask Canadians to think about the difference this revenue would have made in our country and the kinds of things Canadians say they want. Canadians are repeatedly frustrated that their politicians are not acting on the things that we have forgone because of these tax cuts. I want to list some of them.
One of them is a national child care program to invest in our children, a program that invests the money where it counts most, in the very early years of our children's lives.
Another is a national pharmacare program. Yes, we have a medicare program thanks to Tommy Douglas and the NDP, but no one's health should be jeopardized because they lack the funds to pay for the pharmaceutical drugs they need.
Yet another is a home care program. Whether it be disability, illness, age, whatever the cause, people are best cared for in their own home. They should have the care they need to be able to stay in their home. It is more economical for society. It is better for the person to be able to stay in familiar surroundings. It is the best kind of care we can deliver for people who want and need to stay in their home. We have failed in this area.
Another is social housing. I have spoken many times in this House about people in my riding of Parkdale—High Park who have fallen through the cracks because of the high cost of housing in the city of Toronto. There are many people who work below the poverty level. People who work for less than $10 an hour simply cannot afford the level of private rental housing that is available in the city of Toronto.
I am very proud that in our community as a result of a community initiative a very small housing facility just opened last weekend, thanks to the help of the United Church. We are so far from being able to address the needs of Canadians when it comes to affordable housing. It is quite shocking. In my city over 75,000 families are on the waiting list for affordable housing. These families are not going away. Their lives are not improving. They are not getting off the list. The list just keeps getting longer and longer. Even those families who are not on the list for affordable housing are often paying a greater and greater amount of their income for their housing needs. Many working and middle class families are getting dangerously deep in debt. They are very concerned about what any change in interest rates could mean for their finances. There is a huge stress on families today because of the lack of affordable housing.
Add to that the challenge of tuition fees for young people who start out in life with tens of thousands of dollars in debt heaped on their backs. What a way for young people to start out , to look at building their career. It is a time when they want to take chances, to travel, to try new things, to learn new things. Instead they are saddled with phenomenal debt because of the lack of investment in post-secondary education by a government that would prefer to give it away to very profitable corporations.
I must speak to the staggering infrastructure deficit in our country. It is huge. It is getting bigger, to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. We are falling further and further behind each and every year because of the lack of investment by the Conservative government and previous Liberal governments to maintain, improve and grow our infrastructure. Whether we are talking about water and sewage, roadways, transit, social and community infrastructure, the lack of investment means that our cities are in very poor shape.
We have seen bridges fall down in Quebec. We have seen drains break in the middle of winter in downtown Toronto, which have to be repaired on a case by case basis, at a huge extra cost. We see gridlock on the streets of our major cities. Someone has to explain to me how this is good for business. How does this gridlock in our crumbling infrastructure make Canada a more competitive country? How is that good for business? It is not.
Whether it is the board of trade or other business organizations, right across the country everyone knows it is bad for business. It is a drag on our competitiveness as well as being a terrible drag and a terrible burden for people who live in our communities who are trying to go about their daily lives.
The lack of transit infrastructure means that people spend hours stuck in traffic. People are moving further and further afield from the centre of our major cities which means they have longer commutes. They get stuck in rush hour traffic. It is a vicious cycle which the current government is doing nothing to help, and the Liberals when they had the chance with many surplus budgets did nothing to help. We have to address the issue of infrastructure in our cities.
It is tragic that we have had the opportunity because of surplus budgets to make these investments but have not done so. I see a lot of back patting by the Conservative government and by previous governments about how deficits and debt have been reduced. What I see is that the debt and deficits have been pushed off the plate of the government and on to the back of individuals.
I see people with more and more personal debt. I see people in my community going to payday lenders and rolling over debts week after week. They are spiralling further into debt. I see that anxiety about how to make ends meet being shuffled off to the individual. It is the least efficient way to deal with collective needs.
I cannot go out and buy my own piece of subway or road. I guess I could buy my own personal swimming pool, but I would rather invest in our community facilities, our community swimming pools, our community child care centres and schools. These are the things that we build together. When we put our tax dollars together we can build so much more than if we each take our own little piece and try to scratch and scramble and invest it ourselves.
We see so many people who believe the advertising of the investment companies and they put their money into mutual funds. People throw their lot in with the market and then find that when they need the money it is not there for them, that the money is lost because it has been gambled away. What we really need are secure retirement incomes. There is no better system than the Canada pension plan, where we all pool our money together so that everyone's money is secure and it is there for seniors when they need it.
If we want to take some of the $250 billion that the government has forgone through tax cuts, why not invest more of that money and make life better for seniors? Why not give more of that back to seniors?
By the way, the billion dollars that the federal government has shortchanged seniors by miscalculating the cost of living could be given back to seniors too. That is another billion dollars that seniors would be very glad to have.
The argument for cutting taxes is that it will make companies more competitive. I think it is important that we do well in the economy and that businesses be competitive and do well in the world, but I would argue that even on the basic grounds of making Canada more competitive, I do not think this tax cut agenda is doing it.
In 1999, the year before the previous prime minister, , introduced his huge tax cuts, Canada was fifth in the world in competitiveness and--
Mr. Speaker, this debate gives us a golden opportunity to remind Canadians of the disastrous effects the Conservative government's policies are having on the economy.
Bill is barely getting any reaction from the Liberal Party of Canada, but that is nothing new. I must admit that as a new member in this House, it is a wonder to me to see how—and my colleague from Toronto just talked about this—some people who are close to the Liberal Party of Canada have managed to pass themselves off as being concerned about poverty and food banks. In fact, the Conservative government is currently granting tax reductions and giving big gifts to the oil companies and the banks. But Liberal members are doing nothing.
If the current government manages to force the passage of Bill before Christmas by virtue of its seat count, then we will miss out on quite the show. The leader of the Liberal Party of Canada has publicly said that he wants to make sure Canadians understand that, after the holidays, the fun will be over, that he will prove the skeptics wrong, that we will have to hold him back or he might hurt the Conservative Party. What we have seen instead this fall is a Liberal Party of Canada that is keeping the Conservatives in power.
I would like to say a few words about what that means. Before becoming a minister in Quebec for a number of years, I was part of the opposition for nine years. I know what it is like to be in the opposition. The job of the opposition is to do two things: make the government accountable, in other words, be the public's conscience and ask the right questions, but at the same, hope that our policies will one day lead us to power. In other words, it is our job to be a government in waiting.
In the NDP, we have clear policies and we are absolutely ready to be in power. Just look at the depth of talent on the NDP benches in this House. We are a political party with a great number of people who have extensive experience in public administration. It is absolutely extraordinary to see the Liberal members sitting on their hands when they could be defeating the Conservative government if they voted just once with us. But they will not. Why? I guess they must be happy enough with the Conservatives' policies or they would be helping us defeat them.
Day after day, they criticize Conservative policies during question period, and at the end of the day, when the time comes to vote against the Conservatives, the Liberal Party drops the ball. It does not have the political courage to stand up and vote. Last night, we witnessed an unprecedented spectacle in this House during the vote on Bill , which is now before us. This is the Conservatives' Christmas bill, their $14 billion gift to oil companies and banks. Some Liberal members showed up to vote against it because the infamous Atlantic accord was part of this bill.
How many of them showed up? Ten or so. Not even enough to form a party in Parliament. The so-called official opposition can no longer call itself a recognized party in Parliament because the members of the official opposition no longer even show up to vote. They are afraid they might defeat the government on what might be considered a matter of confidence.
People who made the mistake of voting for the Liberal Party of Canada are really questioning that decision. The members of the NDP are telling people to take a good look at our policies and who we are. When I look at my colleagues who were once ministers in British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario or, in my case, Quebec, people with a great deal of experience in education, industry, their churches and their communities, I realize that the NDP possesses the kind of wealth and social vision to do a good job of running a government that would renew Canada's reputation as a peacekeeper, international cooperator and environmental steward.
What do we have instead? We have a Conservative government that is embarrassing Canada internationally and that drew us into the quagmire of war in southern Afghanistan. Only the NDP has adopted a clear position against the war in Afghanistan, in favour of the withdrawal of our troops and a comprehensive, stable process for the development and maintenance of lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The Conservatives are embarrassing Canada on the world stage by not trying to achieve an objective that is supposedly shared by all political parties, that is, committing 0.7% of our gross domestic product to foreign aid. In that regard, they are the worst government in the history of Canada since the 0.7% objective was adopted. We are farther than ever from that objective, which is so crucial if we want to help our fellow human beings around the globe.
We need look no further than the conference currently under way in Bali, Indonesia, to understand just how much the Conservatives are embarrassing us. We sent our pitiful there to embarrass us. It is bad enough to have to watch his buffoonery here every day when he gets up and talks about a file on which he clearly has not done the least bit of work. He reads quotations and spews nonsense of that nature, when what Canadians really want to know is what will be done to fulfill our obligations to future generations.
Those who have the opportunity should go to McGill University to meet the extraordinary people who work at the Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. These people understand that sustainable development is not just a slogan invented over the past few decades. Sustainable development is a legal obligation we have towards future generations.
Canada ratified the Kyoto protocol five years ago, even though this protocol is celebrating its 10th anniversary today. Because Canada ratified it five years ago, it is part of Canada's domestic law. The Kyoto protocol is an international obligation, but it is an integral part of our law, which means that it is a legal obligation.
The Conservative government prides itself on respecting law and order. Yet this law and order government is becoming irresponsible and even an international outlaw because of its disrespectful behaviour toward future generations. It is casting a shadow over a generation of Canadians who have worked hard to earn our country the utmost respect of the international community when it comes to the environment.
I know that whenever the Kyoto protocol comes up, the Conservatives inevitably point to the seats opposite them and say it is the Liberals' fault, because they did nothing for 13 years. We agree, and we will always agree that the Liberals did nothing. On the contrary, instead of meeting the Kyoto target, which is to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 6% compared to 1990 levels, the Liberals saw emissions increase by 33% in the 13 years they were in power. This is shameful, and it is the worst performance in the world.
Eddie Goldenberg, the former Prime Minister 's chief of staff, was kind enough to remind us, during a recent presentation to the London Chamber of Commerce in Ontario, that when the Liberals signed the Kyoto protocol, it was purely because of public opinion. He said that it was to galvanize public opinion. Eddie Goldenberg is admitting that, as was the case with the Kelowna Accord and all other Liberal measures, their actions were exercises in public relations.
This is why the NDP now has such support in Quebec and the other provinces. Citizens realize that the Liberal Party of Canada is but an empty shell, a creature of the 1960s designed to keep Quebec in its place and now being superseded by political parties that understand that what is truly important in life is to look after our neighbours and our society, and that we have to look after our planet.
That is the NDP vision. Unlike the Liberals who have never looked after these interests, unlike the Conservatives who do not wish to do so, and unlike the Bloc who cannot, the NDP is the only political party with representation throughout Canada, from British Columbia to Nova Scotia, that speaks to Canadians about real issues.
One of the nicest compliments I received in the recent byelection in Outremont was from someone living at Father Dowd Memorial Home. After my presentation, a severely handicapped gentleman beckoned to me and said something that touched me deeply. He said that it was the first time that a federal candidate had come there and spoken about human beings rather than about the Constitution, or disputes, or differences that too often are the subject of debate in Quebec.
Like those voting in the Outremont byelection, many Quebeckers have realized that the NDP is the only credible party in the House of Commons speaking for peace, the only credible party speaking out against war in Afghanistan, and the only party standing up for the environment. Our leader has a great deal of experience in environmental issues. This very afternoon, he is introducing an important bill that has received support not only from David Suzuki, but also from the Pembina Institute. This bill would put us on the path toward real greenhouse gas reductions so that we can respect the right of future generations to experience the same standard of living, the same quality of life and the same living environment we have experienced. That is what the NDP is all about. We are a political organization that puts people first, unlike the Conservatives.
This brings me back to Bill , which is before us today. The primary goal of this bill is to use State moneys for their intended purpose, that is, to help people, to help with infrastructure, and to help create programs for people. We want to give that money to people. Who do the Conservatives want to give that money to? They want to give it to big oil companies and banks.
The outcome of all this is bizarre because the overheated oil industry pushed the value of the loonie up. Such a high Canadian dollar is making it very hard to export products. As a result, people across Canada are losing their jobs. Many people in New Brunswick and Quebec who work for Shermag have recently lost their jobs. This is not because the company is badly managed. In fact, it is an outstanding company that makes quality products. The Conservative government does not seem to understand that. It has destabilized Canada's relatively stable economy made up of primary resource sectors, processing sectors, a manufacturing sector and, of course, an oil sector based mainly in the west. There was wealth, but there was also balance.
The Conservatives are in the process of killing the manufacturing sector, getting rid of not just workers, which is bad enough. Because of this, many families will have to do without come Christmastime. This is primarily because the Conservatives could not care less about people's lives. They are not interested in helping people. Their only motivation is an economic dogma that has convinced them, even if they are wrong, that the last thing a government should do is get involved in the economy. But by proposing tax cuts, regardless of the size of the business or profits, they are, in fact, getting involved in the economy. Some oil companies in the west would get $40, $50 or even $60 million presents all at once.
These businesses, in western Canada, will earn even more in the oil sector. This will create a greater imbalance in our economy and will destabilize us even more. It will push the dollar even higher, which will cause an even greater drain on the manufactured goods sector of the economy, the industrial sector, particularly in the east, in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
These are good jobs being lost, and the Conservative government does not care at all. It does not care because it does not believe that the government should get involved, any more than it believes the government should get involved in the environment. There are important things to be done with a little vision.
There was a press conference today with the leader of the NDP and Daniel Breton, who is the president of the Coalition Québeckyoto. Daniel Breton is a visionary.
Today, he drew a comparison to what Quebec managed to do in the 1960s, when it decided to be the master of its own destiny. This operation in Quebec, which was called, “Maîtres chez nous”, was decried, castigated and criticized. Some predicted the worst, that this would fail. Some 40 years later, where are we now? We have Hydro-Québec, a government corporation that is a world model of good management. Quebec will be able to produce 4,000 megawatts—or 4,000 times a million watts—thanks to wind energy, now that these projects are being built or have been approved and are going through.
This is clean and renewable energy. With a little vision, a little self-confidence, we could do the same across Canada. Unfortunately, the Conservatives have absolutely no self-confidence and they certainly have no vision. They do not believe for an instant that the government can play a role in this.
This makes me think that if the Conservatives had been in power in Europe during the planning of the high-speed trains, which now crisscross Europe at 300 km an hour, they never would have been built. This required vision and confidence in the fact that government has a role to play and can be a driving force in achieving these big projects.
If our government here in Ottawa had just a bit of vision, Canada could become a world leader in clean and renewable energy. In remote villages the woods were cut a long time ago, but a tremendous amount of forest biomass was left behind. In fact, tens of millions of tonnes of forest biomass was left to slowly release carbon. Instead of allowing that to continue, imagine using infrastructure already in place, namely the roads and bridges that are already built, to transport this forest biomass to what would become a methanol production plant.
We can use ethanol, we can produce wind energy, we can use hydraulic power and wind power to produce hydrogen. We could become a world leader in hydrogen energy, which is clean energy and is renewable for future generations. But no, we are digging up the oil sands. We are in the process of using relatively clean fossil energy, namely natural gas, to melt the sand and extract, at a high environmental cost, the bitumen contained in the oil sands of western Canada. It is outrageous. It is the antithesis of sustainable development. It is absolutely not sustainable. This cannot last long, but such is the Conservative government: it does not believe in the future.
We in the NDP have a vision for the future, a vision that takes into account our primary, unending and inescapable responsibility towards future generations. And we will do everything we can to meet those expectations. We will oppose this government and its far right plans. We will oppose the war in Afghanistan and we are the only ones who oppose it.
Indeed, the Bloc Québécois supports the Conservative government regarding the war in southern Afghanistan until 2009. Its members are still unable to explain why it will suddenly be a bad war in 2009, yet it is not a bad war right now. The Bloc Québécois owes an explanation to voters. Bloc members had a very hard time explaining this in Outremont.
The Liberals are responsible for the debacle in Afghanistan and they are also responsible for the worst performance in the world when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. They too have some explaining to do to voters.The Conservatives, on the other hand, who incessantly hide behind Liberal negligence and incompetence, will have to explain themselves to future generations.
They must stop hiding behind the Liberals to make excuses. They must stop hiding behind the United States, China, India and Brazil and trying to justify the unjustifiable regarding how the oil sands are being developed in the west. It is starting to have a destabilizing effect on our economy and even on the planet. And this government is the primary driving force. We, on the other hand, will do all we can to propose a vision of the future, a vision of hope, a vision that takes into account our obligations towards future generations.