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Thursday, February 7, 2008


House of Commons Debates



Thursday, February 7, 2008

Speaker: The Honourable Peter Milliken

    The House met at 10 a.m.



[Routine Proceedings]




    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the international panel on Canada's future role in Afghanistan.
    I urge all members to read this document carefully. It is critical to the future of the country of Afghanistan and its people, and it is highly significant to the future of Canada as well.

Interparliamentary Delegations

    Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the following report of the Canadian delegation of the Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group representing its participation at two events this summer: National Conference of State Legislatures - Strong States Strong Nation Legislative Summit: 2007 Annual Meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, August 5 through 9, 2007.
    The second one is a Southern Governors' Association, the 73rd annual meeting in Biloxi, Mississippi, August 25 to 27, 2007.

Committees of the House


    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to the prebudget consultations 2007 entitled “Taxing to Prosper: Canada's System of Taxes, Fees and Other Charges”.

National Defence   

    Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on National Defence entitled “Procurement and associated processes”.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this is a bill I have been working on for several years. It was previously Bill C-211. We hope to change that a little bit to end the CPP clawback on the superannuation of those valid members and veterans of our armed forces and our RCMP when they reach the age of 65.

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

Financial Administration Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, this is another way for the government and Parliament to express its thanks to those who serve our country and their families as well as seniors who have worked their whole lives. When they require passports, we believe those passports should be given without financial charges, courtesy of the government.
    Many seniors across the country have asked for something of this nature. It is another way of expressing thanks to them and to the valid heroes of the RCMP and the armed forces personnel and their families.

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

Fisheries Act

     He said: Mr. Speaker, in this country it is really quite astonishing that we allow mining companies to use freshwater lakes as toxic waste sites. It has to stop. We believe mining companies should be doing what most of them do already: have independent tailing ponds free and clear of any natural water systems.
    Two lakes in Newfoundland have been destroyed, two more in Nunavut, and 18 more across the country if the bill is not enacted very quickly.
    We have nothing against mining. We just want to ensure it is done with the highest environmental standards that we have in this country. No one should ever be using freshwater lakes or river systems for toxic waste sites.

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


Human Trafficking  

    Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions this morning that I would like to present to the House.
    The first petition says: “We the undersigned citizens of Canada, draw the attention to the House to the following: whereas the trafficking of women and children across international borders for the purposes of sexual exploitation should be condemned; and whereas it is the duty of Parliament to protect the most vulnerable members of society from harm, those being the victims of human trafficking, therefore your petitioners request that the government continue its work to combat trafficking of persons worldwide”.
     This is a petition from my riding. I want to thank the leadership of the member for Kildonan—St. Paul on this particular issue.

Search and Rescue  

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition. I would personally like to thank a constituent of mine, Johanna Ryan Gui, for her help in compiling this petition.
    The petition calls upon the Department of National Defence and the Minister of National Defence to provide more resources. Currently, the policy dictates that rescue squadrons across the country have a two hour window during off hours. This should be reduced to 30 minutes.
    This would require the Department of National Defence to bring more resources for the search and rescue squadrons across this country: Comox, Trenton, Greenwood, and of course my home squadron of 103 Search and Rescue Squadron in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador.


Bill C-458  

    Mr. Speaker, the momentum continues to grow. I am pleased to present petitions today from Alberta and Nova Scotia in regard to Bill C-458, An Act to amend the Canada Post Corporation Act (library materials). These petitions will protect and support the library book rate and extend it to include audio-visual materials.


    Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition concerning the flood that struck Bangladesh on November 15. The petition points out that more than 3,500 people have been killed and at least 4 million people had their lives dramatically affected, including displacement.
    If it is even possible to imagine the scope of the disaster, the cyclone destroyed 500,000 homes. Whole villages disappeared under the flooding. It is estimated that 40% of the victims were children and that many of the surviving children are now orphans.
    There is a large Bangladeshi community here in Canada. Members of the community are mourning their losses and working hard to raise funds themselves.
    To date Canada has only contributed $3 million to the recovery effort. Given the scope of the disaster, more money is needed. This petition calls upon the government to do more. It is signed by several hundred citizens and was collected through the hard work of Marilyn Churley. I urge the government to give consideration to this petition.


    Mr. Speaker, I have an additional petition this morning regarding leadership that the petitioners would like to see in the area of HIV-AIDS prevention. The petitioners urge the Parliament of Canada to take a leadership role, not only here at home but around the world, on the prevention, treatment and care of those who are afflicted with HIV-AIDS.

Questions on the Order Paper

    The Speaker: Is that agreed?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate

HIV-AIDS among Aboriginal people  

[S.O. 52]
    The Chair has received a request for an emergency debate from the hon. member for Vancouver East. I will now hear her submissions on this point.
    Mr. Speaker, as you know, I submitted a letter to you under Standing Order 52(2) for an emergency debate.
    I am applying for an emergency debate and appealing to you because of the very grave situation in my community, Vancouver East, particularly in the downtown east side, where recent reports showed a very deepening crisis, an alarming situation.
    The HIV infection rate for aboriginal people is twice the rate of the infection rate for non-aboriginal people, which in that community is already much higher than where it is elsewhere in the population. We are facing a very severe health crisis.
    We have seen no response from the government and no action. There are aboriginal people who are living in very desperate situations, who are living in poverty. I do think that this is very noteworthy.
    It is something that we should be deeply concerned about, that we should be debating, and we should be taking action. We should be calling on the government to respond to this emergency in the downtown east side that is affecting the lives of so many people. Many lives have already been lost to this crisis of HIV-AIDS, particularly among injection drug users.
    I put forward my application on that basis, but I would like to make one additional point. As you know, Mr. Speaker, there have been a number of requests for emergency debates that you have not approved based on your interpretation of the Standing Order and you know that we have tried valiantly to have take note debates as well. In fact, the government has not been forthcoming on that matter.
    We have not had take note debates for over a year. This is a lost opportunity for members of Parliament to have a thorough debate in the House on subjects that are of concern to local communities or of national concern.
    The fact is that we have the avenue of emergency debates that seems to have been cut off and now we have the avenue of take note debates that has been cut off arbitrarily by the government.
    We feel that this has left us in a very difficult situation where our ability to bring forward issues and express points of view, and to draw attention to some of these situations, such as the forestry industry and what is happening in local communities, and the impact of lost jobs.
    One of my colleagues also brought forward an application dealing with emergency services for aboriginal people on reserve. So, all of these issues, I do believe warrant attention.
    On this particular issue today concerning HIV-AIDS among aboriginal people, I do believe that this is something that the House should debate forthwith.
     Mr. Speaker, I would ask for your consideration of this and I would ask you to consider the broader context in which we find our ourselves and respect the will, I think, of Parliament to make sure that these issues are addressed and we have an opportunity to bring this forward, to press the government, and to make our points of view known.


     The Chair has considered the submissions of the hon. member for Vancouver East and has heard her arguments, and read the letter, of course, that she forwarded to me on this subject earlier.
    I think that the request is reasonable and accordingly, I am prepared to allow for an emergency debate, but as she knows it will not happen forthwith. It will happen later this day at the adjournment time of the House. Accordingly, there will be a debate on this subject this evening.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]


Prebudget Consultations

Hon. Diane Ablonczy (for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform)  
    That this House take note of the pre-budget consultations undertaken by the Standing Committee on Finance.
    Mr. Speaker, first, I seek the unanimous consent of the House to allow for two 10 minute speeches as opposed to the 20 minute speech that had originally been slotted.
    Is there unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to in effect split his time into two?


    Mr. Speaker, I understood from what my colleague said that he is prepared to have two 10-minute speeches rather than split the unlimited time in half. If we are talking about two 10-minutes speeches, then there is no problem.
    There will be two 10-minutes speeches, 10 minutes for him and 10 minutes for another member, each followed by a five-minute period for questions and comments. Is it agreed?


    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: Agreed and so ordered. The hon. member for Peterborough then has the floor for 10 minutes.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Burlington.
     I will begin by thanking the groups that came forward, the individuals and the businesses in Canada that came forward and made their presentations to the finance committee for our prebudget consultation. Quite frankly, the quality of the presentations made before the finance committee this year were outstanding and that is reflected in the report that has been put forward by the Standing Committee on Finance.
    I should also state that while our party, the Conservative Party, is largely supportive of the recommendations made in the prebudget consultation document, there are certain aspects of the prebudget consultation document that we did not agree with, so we did prepare a supplementary report that is also within the prebudget consultation, which clearly outlines the direction that our government sees for Canada moving forward.
    When I speak about the direction of Canada moving forward, I thought it would be fitting to begin today's debate by again outlining Advantage Canada.
    The government came forward with Advantage Canada in November 2006. It was presented by the hon. member for Whitby—Oshawa, the Minister of Finance. He came forward and submitted a blueprint for Canada's economy moving forward and for Canada as a whole.
    It was something that has not been done before. In fact, often in days past, governments would come out with budgets and there would be an awful lot of surprises. Canadians did not know what the direction of government was and business could not count on what the future direction of government would be. With Advantage Canada, the government sought to provide a level of confidence and to provide business with a good road map to where the government was going.
    Therefore, I thought that the best way to start would be to outline and to remind the members of the House what Advantage Canada spoke of.
    Advantage Canada was focused on creating five Canadian advantages that would help improve the quality of life and help Canada succeed on the world stage.
    There was a tax advantage, which spoke of reducing taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on business in the G-7.
    We also spoke of Canada's fiscal advantage and eliminating the government's total net debt in less than a generation. We spoke at the time of 2021 and I believe we are actually ahead of that target.
    We spoke of the entrepreneurial advantage. We wanted to reduce regulation and red tape and lower taxes to unlock business investment and try to build a more competitive business environment so that our small businesses could succeed.
    We spoke of the knowledge advantage that we wanted to build in Canada to create the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce. We are already seeing the results of this. A statistic released this morning said that university enrolment in Canada is up by almost 23%. In fact, it is up by 25% for women and 21% for men. These are real successes for the government.
    We also spoke of the infrastructure advantage, whereby we will work to create a modern, world-class economic infrastructure that helps ensure growth and helps ensure prosperity so that Canadians can have a better life.
    Then, of course, to support these advantages, we had principles, and that is very important. What were the principles that were going to guide Advantage Canada? The first principle was to focus government, and I cannot emphasize how important that is. The government remains focused on what it does best. It is responsible in spending, efficient in its operation, effective in its results and accountable to the taxpayers. This is a principle, quite frankly, that all governments should aspire to, but which our government holds very dear and very close to its heart.
    We want to create new opportunities and choices for people. When we speak of that, we want government to create incentives for people to excel right here at home. We want to reduce taxes and invest in education. These are the principles that the Conservative Party holds very dear. We want to invest for sustainable growth.


    When we talk about investing for sustainable growth, we are not talking about one time ad hoc payments that pick winners and losers. We are talking about fixing the fundamental flaws in the economy and setting the environment right so that all businesses can flourish and prosper, which creates more employment.
    We are seeing results of this already. We know that in the month of December a record number of Canadians were employed, 17 million. That has never happened before in this country. The government has created almost 700,000 jobs in two years. That is an incredible record and Advantage Canada is the blueprint by which we have set that underway.
    Following up on Advantage Canada, we had budget 2007 which made a significant number of investments that were important to Canadians. I believe the record of budget 2007 speaks for itself.
     I think it would be fitting to remind Canadians what budget 2007 accomplished: $39 billion over seven years to restore the fiscal balance. I am from Ontario. The province of Ontario received $3.8 billion this year in the fiscal balance transfer, plus per capita transfers for things like post-secondary education where we increased that budget by 40%, plus provided per capita spending.
    What did the Premier of Ontario have to say about budget 2007? Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is claiming a hat trick of significant victories. On March 21, 2007, in the aftermath of the federal budget, he stated, “Ontario has scored three significant victories when it comes to our fight for fairness. This federal budget represents real progress for Ontarians”. I am proud of that.
    I came here to Ottawa to fight for real progress and fairness for Ontario and for Peterborough but also to fight for fairness right across the country because, ultimately, as federal politicians we should strive for a government that does not discriminate between regions and that views and respects all Canadians equally.
    I could speak to the budget for hours but I have requested that my time be reduced to 10 minutes so I can share my time with my colleagues who are also very proud of the government's economic record.
    I would also like to talk about the economic statement. Perhaps one of the most interesting things that I read following the economic statement was written by Sheila Copps, a former Liberal member, when she said:
    The finance minister's decision to ignore the naysayers was brilliant politics. A cynical observer might question his timing, overshadowing....
    Blah, blah, blah.
    An hon. member: That's exactly that, blah, blah, blah.
    Mr. Dean Del Mastro: I am sorry. Forget the economists, forget the professors. Most who trash the GST cuts also oppose tax deductible transit passes, notwithstanding the obesity epidemic.
    The former minister, Sheila Copps, was very proud of the government's decision to reduce the GST and reduce the tax burden on Canadians. I think that is tremendous.
    Jayson Myers, of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, came forward and called the tax cuts in the economic and fiscal update very important. He said:
    Canada is going to have a very attractive tax environment to retain and attract business investment. ...this keeps us in the game of international investment.
    When we speak of manufacturing, the government has provided more than $8 billion in tax relief, $33 billion over seven years for infrastructure and $1.3 billion in annual support to the provinces to improve access to skilled labour.
    We are supporting many aspects. I could go on at length about the measures that we have taken but I will defer to questions from my colleagues.


    Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat amused by the hon. member's speech. I wonder whether he could sort of zero in on some facts about the way his government spends money around here.
    In Table 1 of the Department of Finance statements for September 2007, the total program spending for the Liberal governments between 1992-03 and 2005-06 was 2.3% and direct federal spending was 3.2%. That was on an average per year.
    Meanwhile, in the two years that your government has been in office you've spent in total program spending at a rate of--
    The hon. member knows that he should be referring to his government. I am not aware of having a government at any time.
    We would all be shocked, Mr. Speaker, if in fact you were part of the government.
    The government spent an average of 6.4% on total program spending per year and direct federal spending was 8.6%.
    The so-called new government, the so-called fiscally responsible government, the so-called Conservative government is on a wild and crazy drunken spending spree. These are numbers that are shocking. These numbers would do credit to the NDP, for goodness sake.
    Is the hon. member particularly proud of the way in which he essentially spent the cupboard bare?


    Mr. Speaker, I am not exactly sure what the hon. member is speaking about. Of course, when one lives in a glass house, one does not cast stones. The Liberal government had a 14% spending increase in its final year in government. Of course, it was trying to buy votes but the voters in Canada did not fall for that.
    I am particularly proud of this government because we effectively cut taxes over the next five years by $200 billion and we have made key investments. We have also addressed the fiscal balance question in Canada.
    I came prepared this morning to speak to this because I was shocked by the comments of the hon. member for Markham—Unionville. When he spoke to the Minister of Finance, he proposed a shopping list of billions of dollars of new spending. He wants billions of dollars for the Kelowna press release. He wants billions of dollars to fund a failed Liberal child care plan. He wants billions of dollars for industrial sectors to pick winners and losers. What else would he like billions of dollars for?
    An hon. member: He wants a new tax.
    Mr. Dean Del Mastro: Yes, he wants a new carbon tax to really hammer businesses that have already been hit by the recession in the United States.
    I would love to answer legitimate questions from the Liberal Party but, clearly, as I said, one does not throw rocks when one lives in a glass house.


    Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to work with my colleague on the committee. Many of the Bloc Québécois recommendations were included in the report. For example, there is the introduction of initiatives to help workers affected by the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry industries.
    The committee members acknowledged that $1 billion was needed for the forestry industry alone and that $1.5 billion was needed for refundable contributions for manufacturing industries that wanted to invest in new equipment. They also acknowledged that the portion of gasoline tax revenues to be shared with municipalities should be increased to 5¢ a litre as soon as possible to stimulate local economies. These proposals were made by the Bloc Québécois, and I am very happy that the committee accepted them.
    I have a question for my colleague.
    These recommendations go further than the ones the Conservative Party refused this week in the House, when we passed a motion calling for the implementation of all the tax measures recommended by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology for the manufacturing sector. We had a vote and the House adopted the motion, but the Conservatives were opposed to it.
    Since the Conservatives on the committee agreed to include this in the report, can they promise to persuade their colleagues to see this through to the end and, as they did in the case of the $1 billion trust, admit that they do not need to tie this to a vote on the budget?
    Can they ensure that the entire caucus has changed its mind since yesterday and will go along with the Conservatives who make up most of the committee, in order to finally support these measures, which address the urgent needs in the manufacturing and forestry industries?


    Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, we have created the billion dollar trust fund to address some of the difficulties being faced by single industry towns. We cannot help the fact that the U.S. economy is going through a time of weakness and we see that weakness in industries that depend on the U.S. economy for exports.
    The government is acting. We are making a more competitive environment for business right across the board. The member can count on the fact that our government and this budget will respond to business and make Canada a more competitive place for the economy.
    Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure this morning to address the House on the prebudget consultations that have taken place.
    I want to spend a few minutes giving a bit of an overview for the Canadian public on the actual process. I will talk a little about the report, some of its recommendations and what that means to Burlington. I will wrap up with where I think we are making progress as a government from a financial point of view and where we can continue to bring value for money to Canadian taxpayers.
    First, for those who do not know, the budget process has a number of facets to it. As members of the finance committee, we have the opportunity to meet Canadians from across the country to talk about what they would like to see in future budgets. This process started back in the summertime with a plan to have a more focused approach to how we deal with prebudget consultation.
    We had a theme, which was what people would do to the tax system in this country to ensure our prosperity in the future. That is the theme which we asked people to present on to us. Not everybody followed that theme. Others decided to come and see us, as they have done in the past, to talk about spending they wanted for their own particular needs. However, the vast majority of presenters came to see us with that theme in mind and did an excellent job in presenting their views of how the country's tax system could be improved to help improve both our prosperity as a people and our position in the world.
    We did engage the public. Hundreds of people came to see us across the country and hundreds of people came to Ottawa to talk to us about their goals and their desires for the 2008 budget.
    As members of the committee, we were able to ask questions of those individuals. We saw submissions from every single group that came to see us. For those whom we were not able to satisfy by giving them their few minutes in front of us so that we could get answers to questions, we asked them to make a written submission to us. We all received copies so that all were able to read those submissions.
    As members of the finance committee, we worked together with colleagues from other parties in discussing the issues and coming up with what we think is the right direction to follow.
    In addition, and everybody in this House has this opportunity, individual groups and organizations came to see me as a regular member of Parliament to talk about what is important to them and what could be incorporated into a budget to help their causes and this country. As an individual member of Parliament, I had numerous people come to see me, numerous delegations, to talk about their views on how we should proceed.
    The theme in terms of the tax system was overtaken a bit by the issue of the rising dollar. As the dollar was rising in the fall, we had a specific set of meetings about that, its effect on our economy and what the Government of Canada could do in that arena. I think they were very effective meetings. We had some excellent presentations on what we as a government can and cannot do in terms of interference. We heard from a variety of presenters, including representatives from the Bank of Canada.
    The areas that we talked about were very wide-ranging. We talked about personal taxes, the tax rates that individuals pay. We talked about what we could do for the unemployed. We talked about what we could do for seniors.
    Education was a theme that people came to see us about, both those who provide education from the university side of things and those who are recipients of education in the post-secondary area, including a number of student groups.
     We talked about corporate taxes and what we could for corporate taxes. We talked about what we could do in terms of research and assistance for organizations that are trying to be the best they can be, to be leading edge in terms of their development and their research and product development.
    We also talked about the capital cost allowance and where it should go, and about the role of manufacturing, as in the report that was supported by this House and by all parties in this House at committee.
    We talked about housing and infrastructure and the federal government's involvement in infrastructure and where we should be going with that.


    We also had a fairly extensive discussion on the role of charities and volunteering and giving in this country. It was very interesting. Just so members know, we had numerous presenters tell us that the change made by the finance minister to allow for stocks and bonds to be used for charity donations made a significant impact on the work that those charities are able to do. They were able to gather more money, a tremendous amount, and particularly in the case of the health care sector for our hospitals.
    Our report is broken down into three areas. There is an introduction on the overall economics of what is happening in this country. There is a very good review of the testimony we heard in a summary of the individuals and organizations appearing before the committee to talk about what their issues were, how they would address those issues, what their goals and expectations were or what suggestions they had for the committee.
    There is a section on recommendations. To be fair, there was to be section on what we in the committee believe should happen, but I thought it would be more appropriate to deal with what we heard and as a committee deal with the recommendations directly.
    To be frank, I believe there were about 52 recommendations that came brought forward from the different parties and the organizations we heard from. They were condensed into this report and discussed by committee. In actual fact, there was quite a bit of unanimity and support from at least the majority of the parties on a number of issues. I would say that on probably 30 of the 52 issues, committee members agreed, and that went into the report. That is a significant amount.
    Then it was my suggestion that in addition to the main body of the report every party have a report of the supplementary issues they would like dealt with. They are not minority reports. We often hear from opposition members that we are here to make this place work, and in this particular case I think having supplementary reports instead of minority reports is more appropriate when it comes to our prebudget consultation. We all have different approaches to the same problem. All members were able to put them forward in this report.
    The report contains a number of recommendations. To be frank with members and the public, not every member in every caucus agreed. The Conservative members did not always agree. The Liberal members did not always agree. The discussion was very good and we have put a number of items forward.
    At this time, I would like to highlight a couple of items that I was very keen on putting forward and that made it into the report. There are two things that I will talk about up front.
     There is a discussion of the LEED program, the leadership in energy and environmental design program, for green federal buildings. I know that it does not sound like much, but I think it is important. We heard from some delegations about this program. They said that it is the role of the federal government to make sure that we do what we can for the environment in our own federal buildings. We heard that there has to be a program which will help to make sure that when new buildings are developed or redeveloped there is the ability to make them as environmentally sensitive as possible. This is a start. I look forward to seeing if the finance minister heeds our advice.
    The other area I put forward was a children's health initiative. I think there is some opportunity in this country to focus on research on children's health. I put forward as one of my recommendations, which also made the report, the possibility of a fund designated for children's health. Canada is a world leader in the field of research in juvenile diabetes and it is an area that I think Canada should be pursuing.
    The report contains a number of recommendations that are important to Burlington, such as improved charity donation review, post-secondary education funding for those furthering their education, and an improvement in the GIS system, where we are recommending that people should be able to earn more money before the clawback starts. There also are other recommendations.


    In the 30 seconds I have left, I want to comment on one other item. The other side of spending is expenditure control. I want to be clear for the House and the people of Canada that in 2006 with Advantage Canada we started to implement the expenditure management system. Finally we are looking at programs in a four year cycle. If they are meeting their objectives, great, but if they are not, we need to review whether we are going to continue to fund them.
    We are using taxpayers' money. We have to make sure that we are getting value for the dollars being spent. If we are not, we must have the ability to move those moneys to a different, more productive program or to a different program altogether. We need to have the courage to make--
    I am sorry, but the member's time has expired.
    The hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber.


    Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the last two speeches by my former colleagues from when I was a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. I do not approve of most of what was said. The only thing I completely agree with in these last two speeches, was the bit about “blah, blah, blah”. That pretty much sums up what was said.
    There is a lot of talk of tax cuts as a way to get our economy moving and to help out the manufacturing and forestry industries, which are experiencing difficulties. As the member who just spoke knows very well, companies that are experiencing difficulties do not pay taxes, so tax cuts do nothing to help them get through the crisis.
    Similarly, the $1 billion aid plan announced by the government will help communities find other jobs, but will not help save existing jobs. Moreover, this aid plan does not target the problem areas. Quebec and Ontario are the hardest hit, but the aid will be allocated on a per capita basis, so more will be handed out in Alberta, which is not experiencing a manufacturing crisis.
    I would like my colleague to take a look at the past. During the mad cow crisis, aid went primarily to beef-producing provinces. It made sense, at the time, to send aid money to the provinces where the mad cow crisis was causing difficulties. If he sees nothing wrong with that, would he not agree, then, that this is the same thing and that the aid should essentially be given to the provinces hurt by the manufacturing crisis?



    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my colleague from the Bloc, who was an active member of the committee last year. We sort of miss the member from the Bloc getting his picture taken and being very excited about his travels with the finance committee across this country. He was a very proud Canadian at the time.
    The issue the Bloc member brought up was whether the money basically should only go to Quebec, or that at the end of the day, that is what the Bloc would like. Of the $1 billion community reinvestment fund that we just put forward through the House and which now is getting through the Senate, hopefully, that money is being spent across the country. We make no apologies for that.
     The issues in terms of manufacturing and some communities that are suffering due to the economic issues they are facing is not an issue just in certain parts of this country. It is happening across the country. To be fair to all parts of the country, to all Canadians and to all communities, we believe that the $1 billion community trust fund that we have set out should be shared equally by all Canadians because all Canadians are paying for that fund.
    That money will be disbursed to the provinces that have those issues. They will gear the money to the locations that are suffering most, whether it is in manufacturing or forestry, but it is not just a Quebec issue. It is a Canadian issue and that is why our $1 billion dollar trust fund is designed to help all Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, at noon today in Toronto an important prebudget submission will be made by folks who are members of the Housing Not War coalition in Toronto. It consists of 147 anti-poverty organizations, peace groups, labour unions, women's groups, faith groups, scientists, environmentalists, ethnic communities, artists, academics and social agencies, students and health practitioners.
    The demonstration will take place at the corner of King and University Avenue, calling on the government to bring the Canadian troops home from Afghanistan and redirecting the billions of dollars spent on that war and putting them toward important social goals. Primarily, they are advocating for an additional 1% of the federal budget to go into housing.
    We know there is a desperate need for housing in Canada. We know of the high homeless rates in Canada. We know too many Canadians pay more on rent than they should. We know affordable housing is in short supply in most communities across the country.
    I suspect some people from Burlington will take part in making that submission today. Will the member for Burlington support a national housing program that is sustainable, durable, continues from year to year and on which people can depend, a program that will build affordable housing in Canada and that will help end the homelessness crisis in Canada?


    Mr. Speaker, it is a very timely question about the housing issue. Housing advocates did come to see us. We have put money into public housing. We are not the providers of public housing as a federal government. That is clear. The money goes to the provinces and they, through their agencies, work on public housing.
    Let us get the facts laid out today. Our government will invest more in affordable housing this year than any federal government in history. In Ontario alone, we have committed more than $1 billion to build and renovate affordable housing. We recognize the issue. We are investing in the issue. We are making a difference in the issue.
    If the hon. member wants to ensure that his British Columbia government spends the money it gets from the federal coffers for housing, I challenge him to take up that responsibility.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all Canadians who have taken the time to make presentations during committee meetings here in Ottawa and in various cities across the country. I would also like to thank those who made written submissions, as well as the clerk and her assistants for their excellent work.


    I even thank fellow MPs from opposition parties for what was generally a cooperative effort, even though we did not agree on every point, as was evident from our various minority reports.
    When the Conservatives came to power two years ago, they inherited the strongest fiscal position, the strongest employment growth of any G-7 country. Therefore, it was really up to them. They had the opportunity, based on very large surpluses, to make wise investments, smart tax cuts so as to better position our country in terms of productivity and in being prepared to face the times of greater economic uncertainty, in which we now find ourselves.
    The burden of my remarks is that they have failed to make these wise investments and these intelligent tax cuts. Now when we are at a time of great economic uncertainty, potentially in recession, we find our fiscal cupboard is bare. We find ourselves much less able to face the future with confidence than had the government managed our economy in an effective and efficient way.
    Let me just say a few words about the overall economic situation in which we find ourselves. Clearly, the major global problems have begun in the United States, which is truly in the eye of the storm, but Canada is not immune. We see this from the fact that the Bank of Canada has substantially reduced its growth forecast for this year, indeed to less than 1% for the first quarter of this year. Jobs actually dropped significantly in the month of December.
    Therefore, government's claim that employment is at an all time high is simply wrong arithmetically. Jobs came down last month by 51,000 in terms of the private sector and some 17,000 total jobs. Some sectors have been particularly hard hit. Manufacturing has lost more than 130,000 jobs in the last year. According to one of our witnesses at the finance committee, Jim Stanford, he expects that if the dollar stays at or near parity, we could face another 300,000 job losses in manufacturing over the next two to four years.
    To put it in a nutshell, one of Canada's better respected economists has summed up by saying that the odds of a recession in the United States and Ontario are approximately fifty-fifty. The odds of a recession in Canada as a whole are approximately one in four.
    That underlines the really tight connection between Ontario and the United States, with 90% or so of Ontario exports destined to the U.S. Therefore, the uncertainties in which the whole country finds itself are concentrated here in the province of Ontario.
    Let me begin with the question of spending. Perhaps uncharacteristically the Conservative government has been the biggest spending government in living memory. This is not just myself saying this. Take normally small-c conservative individuals like Andrew Coyne, who writes for the National Post and John Williamson, head of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Both these gentlemen have taken the government to task for going on a big spending spree.
     This comes through if we look at the numbers. If we compare total program spending over the two years of the Conservative government versus the whole Liberal time in government, or just the Liberal time in government since we balanced the budget, we find the rate of growth of spending substantially higher in the last two years than in the Liberal years.
    This is particularly the case if we limit our consideration to money spent by the federal government itself rather than monies transferred to individuals or other levels of government. The federal government's own spending in the two years of government has been up by an almost unbelievable 18%, which is an average of 8.6% per year. This is very substantially higher than spending increases during the Liberal period.


    As confirmed by Andrew Coyne and by John Williamson and as confirmed by the statistics, this has been a big spending government when times were good. Its first two years in government, until recently, were periods of strong economic growth globally and inherited from the previous government. It spent like drunken sailors during good times, leaving the cupboard largely bare now that we are entering uncertain times. I submit, from the point of view of basic economic management, this is an incompetent way to run a fiscal policy and a government.
    The other side of the ledger is tax. The Conservatives spent like crazy during good times, now we have taxes on the other side. Essentially they have undertaken four tax measures, one with which we agree. Indeed, the Leader of the Liberal Party, before the Conservative economic statement, called for deeper corporate tax cuts to increase the productivity and competitiveness of the Canadian economic and partly to offset the fact that Canada no longer had an competitive advantage to a weak currency. We needed to create a new Canadian advantage through a corporate tax rate substantially lower than the United States. The government has followed our suggestion, so we do not really have any complaints in that domain. However, that is where our agreement ends.
    The second item of taxation done by the Conservatives was this. Within a few months of coming to office, they raised personal income tax rates on the lowest income Canadians. They raised it from 15% to 15.5%. Then, in a great sweep of victory, they brought it back to 15% from 15.5% and claimed huge credit for cutting taxes, whereas in reality they raised the tax for one year to 15.5% and then brought it down to 15%. We do not object to them bringing it back to 15%, but we do criticize them for raising that tax for one year a year earlier.
    The third thing the Conservatives did was spend a huge amount of money to lower the GST by two points. There is hardly an economist on the planet who would agree that was the wisest way to cut taxes. I will simply quote former Conservative cabinet minister, Perrin Beatty, now the president of the Chamber of Commerce, who said:
    Knocking another point off the GST may be politically attractive but it does not provide the same incentive for improving our sustained economic performance.
    We Liberals believe in cutting taxes. We are committed to not raising any taxes, including the GST, but we certainly believe it would have been far wiser had the government used that same amount of money for broad based personal income tax cuts rather than for cutting the GST.
    The fourth element of the Conservative tax policy is what I would call narrow, politically motivated boutique tax cuts. In other words, if the Conservatives have money available to cut taxes, instead of cutting the taxes of all Canadians, they direct those to narrowly targeted groups like students getting credits for buying text books or young Canadians playing hockey, et cetera.
     I have nothing against those groups. In fact I am in favour of them. However, why is it up to government to decide that young hockey players deserve a tax break and young piano players or violin players do not? This is an intrusive kind of tax policy that substitutes government decision making where family decision making is appropriate. We would prefer to have broad based tax cuts rather than narrow, politically directed, intrusive boutique tax cuts.
    If we combine the spending spree during good times with the tax cuts, which are largely incompetent in the sense that at least most economists and I believe most business leaders and most Canadians would have benefited far more from a different pattern of tax cuts, the net effect is that the government's fiscal cupboard is bare just at the moment when the Canadian economy is likely to need a boost.


    Let me end by mentioning the sectors where the Canadian economy definitely does need a boost . Manufacturing, as I said earlier, is at risk of losing hundreds of thousands more jobs. Forestry is on life support. The livestock branch of agriculture is in deep trouble. Tourism is in trouble. All of these sectors are in trouble for a combination of reasons, but principally the very high value of the Canada dollar is hammering them. In addition, a slowing U.S. economy and rising energy costs are creating this perfect storm in which several of Canada's most important sectors are being battered as we speak.
    The government is not prepared to do anything for those sectors. Yes, it has this communities fund, and we on the Liberal side have said we would replicate that, but that does not help protect the jobs in those sectors. That only comes into play after those jobs have been lost. The Conservatives have nothing to directly support the manufacturing industry and those other sectors in their time of need. Whereas we on the Liberal side are not only going to replicate the communities fund, but we also have an additional $1 billion fund dedicated to supporting investment in the manufacturing sector.
    I suggest that the government is neglecting these critical sectors of the Canadian economy at their moment of greatest need, partly because the Conservatives have overspent in the past. They spent wildly during good times, leaving the fiscal cupboard bare. But there are also their narrow ideological reasons. They adhere to free market principles. The government will not get involved in the manufacturing sector, as the finance minister called it a shell game; this, even though the biggest players, the United States and the European Union, have given massive subsidies to their agricultural and aerospace sectors. The southern state governors are giving massive subsidies to car companies to locate there.
    It is a kind of boy scout, narrow ideology, naive point of view that Canada alone can adhere to these market principles while all the players around us are doing otherwise. It is a recipe for job losses, a recipe for not supporting key sectors of the Canadian economy.
    To conclude, the government has demonstrated great incompetence in its economic management. I have not had time to mention two of the most incompetent episodes involving income trusts and interest deductibility. Both of those will go down in infamy in terms of incompetence, and in the case of income trusts dishonest economic management, but at the macro level in terms of excessive spending in good times, in terms of an unwise structure of tax cuts.
    Just as Canada enters this period of economic uncertainty, the government which inherited the most bountiful fiscal surplus two years ago has left the fiscal cupboard virtually bare. It has left the Canadian economy ill-prepared for the economic storms which may lie ahead of us.


    Mr. Speaker, I want to remind the member for Markham—Unionville that on January 23, 2006, the Canadian public demonstrated that the previous government was completely incompetent and replaced it. That is where the real incompetence lies.
    The member talked about tax cuts and that he sort of likes them but does not like them. They were his but we did them and now he does not like them. He did not make much sense.
    We promised to reduce the GST by two points. That is something we committed to in the election and we actually did it. I know the previous government had promised back in the early 1990s that it was going to get rid of the GST completely and of course it failed at doing that, as it failed at most things that it had committed to do but never ever accomplished.
    My question is twofold. First, he talked about what he calls the boutique tax cuts. Would he remove them all or keep them all if he had the opportunity to do so?
    Second, he talked about spending. I am not going to get into the numbers. I have numbers which show that under the Liberals spending rose 8.2% annually and in 2004-05 spending growth was increasing by 14.4%. We have implemented an expenditure management system which will report in this budget on 17 different departments. Programs that do not meet our objectives we are going to ask to be removed. Will the Liberal Party be supporting the programs that do not meet their objectives?
    If we bring them forward as needing to be replaced in terms of the cash flow they absorb, will his party be supporting the expenditure management system that we have implemented to make sure that the programs are value for taxpayers' dollars and meet the objectives that were set out? Our very first opportunity to do that will be during the budget of 2008. Will he be supporting it and will he be getting rid of those boutique taxes?
    Mr. Speaker, I think I said in my speech, and if I did not I will say it now, the Liberal Party is committed to not raising any taxes, unlike the Conservative Party, which raised income tax upon assuming office.
    On his second question about expenditure review, I was the chair of the expenditure review committee when the Liberals were in government and we found $11 billion of savings over a period of five years. I am philosophically very much in favour of the idea that it is the responsibility of government to continuously shift expenditures out of low priority areas and into high priority areas.
    The trouble with the Conservative government is that when it did an expenditure review or cut exercise several months ago, it did not look for efficiencies in administration the way we did. The Conservatives made cuts directed at the most vulnerable in Canadian society. They cut women's groups. They cut literacy. They cut museums. They cut not that much money compared with the $11 billion, but there was an outcry because these were politically motivated cuts to the most vulnerable in Canadian society, such as the court challenges program which the Conservative Party regarded as their political enemies.
    If the Conservative Party comes back with sensible administrative savings of the kind the Liberals discovered, I would be inclined to support them. If they come back with more ideological cuts to the most vulnerable in Canadian society, then I would oppose them with great vigour.



    Mr. Speaker, it was very interesting to see the following recommendation from all members of the committee in the report. This was one of the recommendations the whole committee accepted. I will now read recommendation 13:
    The federal government develop a concrete policy to assist the manufacturing and forestry sectors. This policy should include implementation of the fiscal recommendations contained in the February 2007 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
    This is exactly what the Conservatives voted against the day before yesterday. This House adopted the Standing Committee on Finance's report with the support of the Liberals and the New Democrats. Only the Conservatives opposed it. Now that it has turned up in the common section of the report, we know that the Conservative members of the committee bought into this part.
    Will my colleague stand with me on this to persuade the Conservative members of the committee to make the Conservative government change its mind on this and move forward? That would make it possible to implement the fiscal recommendations as quickly as possible because the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors is happening now.
    It is hard to understand why the Conservative government voted against this recommendation on Tuesday, but is supporting it today because it is part of the newly released report. Conservative members went against their government and supported the recommendation. I think they have finally come around to the right position on this issue. Does this mean that we will finally get something done about this?
    Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with my hon. colleague, in principle, but I do not necessarily agree with all the details concerning exactly how the government should spend this money. Nevertheless, I fully recognize that the government should take concrete measures to help the manufacturing and forestry sectors.
    In fact, our party leader, the Leader of the Opposition, proposed specific measures for this. I agree with him: the Conservative members who sit on the committee should support our position.
    However, I must admit I am not very optimistic about this government itself, given its very strong ideology, but I can at least hope that the Conservative members who sit on the committee will be on our side on this.


    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Markham—Unionville and I are from the same province, the province of Ontario. I dare say that he and I have seen this movie before. In Ontario the name of the movie was “Harris and the now member for Whitby—Oshawa”; in the federal government, it was “Mulroney, Chrétien”; and in the United states it was “Reagan, Clinton, Bush”. It is the same movie every time; that is, the so-called Conservative government goes crazy on spending, drops its revenue base precipitously, ends up in deficit and then leaves it to the so-called Liberal government to clean it up.
    I wonder whether the hon. member, given the comments by the member for Burlington, would anticipate that were the Liberals to form the government, we would again have one major mess to clean up?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague has made some wise comments. Let me respond very briefly, first in terms of history and then in terms of the future.
    The historical record is utterly clear. Whether one is talking about Ontario, and Eves plus the current minister of finance, or Mulroney in Canada, or Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, the lesson from history is that it is always the Conservatives or the Republicans who create the big, fat deficits and it is always the Liberals or the Democrats who are left to clean up the ugly Conservative mess. That is history and I do not think that can be disputed.
    The future is a bit harder to predict than the past. Given that the Conservatives inherited such huge surpluses, it would be premature to say that a deficit is imminent, but they are certainly skating closer to the edge than we ever would have. If the economy does weaken, not hugely but a bit more, we could be seeing a Conservative deficit. That would certainly be consistent with history and that would quite likely mean another Conservative deficit left for Liberals to clean up.



    Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to participate in today's debate on the prebudget consultations. First of all, I would like to thank my colleagues from the Standing Committee on Finance, as well as the entire staff that helped us in our work on this. Naturally, dialogue and debate can be intense, since we all have different opinions. In my case, the hon. members for Jeanne-Le Ber and Saint-Maurice—Champlain support me in my committee work as the Bloc Québécois representative. We try to work as a team as much as possible.
    In my first year as finance critic, I addressed the question of budget consultations by first initiating very broad consultations in my riding in August and September 2007. I organized six two-hour public meetings in six different municipalities. I sent a flyer to all households in my riding, urging them to share their opinion with me. We then proceeded with a Quebec-wide consultation.
    We tried to respect these recommendations as much as possible in this report. There are some things that were not supported. Nevertheless, there are other things that the committee agreed to include in the report that I think are very important. I hope the government will also accept them.
    Let us recall our six budget priorities.
    First, we wanted an aid package to support workers and businesses affected by the manufacturing and forestry crisis—a package worth more than the $1 billion announced, which is clearly not enough.
    We also wanted measures to give seniors back their dignity. These measures would make the guaranteed income supplement retroactive and increase it, which would allow seniors at least to live at the poverty line.
    We also wanted the reinstatement of education and social transfers to 1994–95 levels. Financially, that is where the fiscal imbalance continues to hurt: the problem has not been resolved at all.
    We wanted increased funding for social housing and a reversal of the ideological cuts made by the Conservative government, particularly with regard to women's groups.
    We also wanted to see increased funding for culture. We recommended about $400 million.
    We wanted to see a 180-degree turn on the environment, where we really need an approach tied to energy savings and sustainable development. This remains an important objective.
    I will now examine each of these objectives. One of the Bloc Québécois' recommendations found in the report was to provide $1 billion for just the forestry sector and not for both the forestry and manufacturing sectors. This week, as we had requested, the government agreed to provide that amount without tying it to the budget. It finally accepted our position. It did an about-face and that is just as well because the money will be available more quickly.
    However, we were looking for $1 billion for the forestry sector alone. We wanted the government to allocate $1.5 billion in reimbursable contributions to allow companies to purchase new equipment. That was also accepted by the committee.
    Next, we wanted to move up to 2008 the transfer of 5¢ of the gasoline tax to municipalities, rather than waiting until 2010 as planned by the government. The objective is to stimulate the economy in this period of economic slowdown where we can sense that the Americans are on the verge of a recession and the Canadian economy is attempting to avoid it. However, it is uncertain whether we will do so given the strong pull of the United States, particularly in the construction sector, which has a significant impact on our manufacturing and forestry industries.
    The majority of the committee recommended injecting $3.5 billion in economic renewal. That is what we called on the federal government to do last fall and to use this year's surplus to do so. The Conservative members from Quebec said that made no sense and that the Bloc Québécois was being irresponsible.
    The Bloc Québécois was being irresponsible? Now they should say that the Standing Committee on Finance is being irresponsible, since it is recommending exactly the same thing. The members from Quebec need to understand that and what better way than to join the Standing Committee on Finance. It would be interesting to see them there and to see whether they have anything interesting to say. The Standing Committee on Finance has accepted a constructive Bloc Québécois proposal.
    What is more, the committee is recommending creating an independent employment insurance fund and to implement an older worker adjustment program. We will have to make sure that it is indeed an income security program when the government implements it. Let us not forget that today's debate is on the prebudget consultations of the Standing Committee on Finance. The government's position may differ. We still need to get the government to make commitments in the budget. However, having the majority of the Standing Committee on Finance recommend a Bloc proposal is already a big step.


    I hope the government will follow through on this report. We would like to see it move forward.
    We find it regrettable, however, that the committee rejected the Bloc Québécois proposal to use the surplus from the independent fund to enhance the system. We know that our seasonal workers are currently subject to four or five pilot projects under a section of the Employment Insurance Act. These projects are still not enshrined in the legislation and they expire after six months or two years. They constantly have to be renewed, which is very complicated and causes insecurity among our seasonal workers and our seasonal industries. We wanted to see this situation corrected immediately, but it is not in the report and we will continue to fight for it. Although the Committee supported the Bloc Québécois’ demand to create an independent Employment Insurance fund to end government pillaging, it refused to enhance the program, as I have just explained.
     They also refused to put $500 million back into Technology Partnerships Canada, telling us that after that program was eliminated, money was injected into the aeronautics industry. That is fine, but there are industries other than aeronautics that also benefited from that program. For example, in my riding, there is a company that has, on three occasions, received substantial amounts of money that it used to create hundreds of jobs.
     Technology Partnerships Canada was condemned by the Conservatives. There may have been a few small problems, but they threw the baby out with the bathwater. It was a worthwhile program, and it would be appropriate to use it during these times when companies must innovate and invest in research and development and our regions must be strengthened. It is a useful and effective tool. It would have been appropriate to continue making it available, but it was not approved by a majority of the committee. The Bloc is not satisfied. We express our displeasure and will continue to fight for this.
     There is another very important recommendation by the Bloc in the report. It relates to retroactive payment of the guaranteed income supplement, in an amount estimated at $3 billion. At present, in the legislation, when someone becomes eligible for the guaranteed income supplement and realizes that he or she should have been receiving it in the past, the person is given a maximum of 11 months of retroactive payments. Often, however, these are older people who have very little income and who should have been eligible for it for three, four or six years.
     The typical case is usually someone whose spouse handled the money and who has been widowed and did not start the process to get the payments. Guaranteed income supplement payments did not start automatically and people had to take some action in order to get it. It was determined that over 200,000 Canadians and 70,000 Quebeckers were in this situation. Marcel Gagnon, a Bloc MP, led a campaign that resulted in some of those people being identified. But the government still refused to make payments retroactive. The Standing Committee on Finance has now agreed to act on that recommendation. We hope that the government will adopt it .
     Along the same line, we would have thought that the committee would agree to recommend that the government increase GIS benefits to reach the poverty line. The committee is preventing the most vulnerable members of our society from getting out of poverty. The guaranteed income supplement is about $110 a month below what is needed for a senior citizen to have the bare necessities. In our budget consultations, we realized that this is an important issue.
     Throughout eastern Quebec, in regional county municipalities where there are the most senior citizens receiving the guaranteed income supplement, that is, in the poorest regional municipalities, only 79% of those people are receiving it. Even in the wealthier regional municipalities, only 52% of senior citizens are receiving it. That means that a lot of people need that income. They cannot make ends meet and so they need support. We would have liked the committee to go that far, but it did not. We will continue to fight for this.
     Ultimately, I hope that the government will fix this situation completely by giving retroactive payments, as the committee recommended, and by providing the maximum that people are entitled to in order to provide them with this minimum of financial security.
     When it comes to the fiscal imbalance and funding for post-secondary education, the Bloc Québécois hit a wall. None of the other parties thought that funding for post-secondary education should be restored to the 1994-95 levels. That was about $3.5 billion for all of Canada and a bit more than $800 million for Quebec.


     We say now in our society that we should invest in innovation, that people should be able to go to school, and that our universities should contribute to research and development. But our universities say they are underfunded. This government measure could have been very helpful. If the federal government is going to claim that its approach is different from that of the former Liberal government, it should follow through and completely eliminate the fiscal imbalance. But it will not do that. The federal government simply will not provide adequate funding for post-secondary education.
     So there is a major omission here. This was one of the Bloc’s main conditions and it still seems very pertinent to us. We hope that the current requests from all the universities in Quebec and in Canada, and from the industrial sector as well will bear fruit. Indirectly, adequate funding for our universities helps with the development of new products. This can be done under the heading of business assistance according to our international agreements and is something that is needed.
     I want to turn now to another of the Bloc’s priorities: social housing. At our initiative, the Standing Committee on Finance recommended that the government use the surplus that Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation is running to invest in social housing. CMHC has a huge surplus of about a billion dollars. The committee did not put an exact figure on it, but we wanted $1 billion a year to be invested in social housing out of the CMHC surplus in order to create decent, affordable housing and increase the supply.
     If we made this investment, we would be killing two birds with one stone, or even three. We would increase the amount of social housing available, we would help cushion the economic slowdown by boosting construction, and we would reduce such phenomena as homelessness. All in all, we would make a major contribution to the fight against poverty. In our view, the Standing Committee on Finance was headed in the right direction in this regard and $1 billion is about the right amount.
     We were unable in committee, however, to reverse the ideologically motivated cuts to the court challenges program and Status of Women Canada. These cuts are widely condemned by women and progressive people all across Canada.
    There is still a lot of work to be done. Groups must be provided with the tools they need. When confronting the machinery of government, it is very difficult to move a case through the system without the kind of funding and support provided by tools like the court challenges program. These are not huge sums of money, but the tool should be reinstated. The Conservatives should do what they did with the income trust issue: recognize that they made a bad call, change their minds and go back to their previous position so that we can get this program back.
    Another of the six conditions is funding for cultural activities. We are very disappointed that not one initiative to provide funding to cultural activities was included in the prebudget consultation report even though we know that a dollar invested in the cultural sector will provide one of the best possible returns because more jobs are being created in this sector than in just about any other.
    We find the federal government's indifference to be somewhat worrisome. Numerous cuts to funding programs for museums, the elimination of the public diplomacy program that financed international cultural tours, and the lack of funding for film and television speak volumes about the fact that this government does not really seem to care about culture as a way of promoting Quebec and Canada not only abroad, but also here at home. The government does not recognize the importance of culture to a society like ours.
    In this report, we are asking the government to change course, reinstate programs to help museums and the public diplomacy program and reinvest in the Canada Council for the Arts' feature film fund and the Canadian television fund. This would cost about $398 million.
    Another of the Bloc Québécois' six conditions has to do with the environment. The Standing Committee on Finance recommended that the government institute a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emission credits. That is interesting. The committee also recommended that the government set up various tax incentives to promote the acquisition of energy efficient transport trucks and adjust the accelerated capital cost allowance on rail equipment to encourage investment.
    All these measures are interesting, and we hope that the government will implement them. However, we would have liked to see the government adopt our proposal for the establishment of regional, absolute greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, to bring emissions down to 1990 levels, and development of a framework for a carbon exchange mechanism in Montreal.


    We will have to explain things again to the Conservative government. If only there were strict rules. In fact, investing in the environment sector is becoming more and more profitable. When the rules are confusing, businesses do not benefit. If this recommendation were supported, if the government decided to implement it, there would be a significant impact on the economy.
    Think about it. There is the whole issue of refundable tax credits for research and development, but there would also be an environmental advantage. Businesses would be more productive if they used less energy, and at the same time, they would be helping to decrease greenhouse gases. There would be an added incentive. I urge the government to move forward on this.
    It is particularly interesting that the Standing Committee on Finance accepted all of these recommendations: $1 billion for the forestry sector alone; $1.5 billion in aid for the industry; and $3 billion for the guaranteed income supplement. These are all measures that have been criticized by the Conservative Quebec members, who called it overspending. Now, it is the position of the Conservative government and the Standing Committee on Finance, which adopted these motions. This means that our figures were not so far-fetched, since they have now been adopted by the Standing Committee on Finance and recommended to the Minister of Finance.
    That shows that there is a great deal of interest in the work we did and the consultations we held in communities across Quebec and Canada. The bottom line is that the current level of financial assistance for the manufacturing and forestry industries is not enough. The figures prove this. The Standing Committee on Finance has made a practical, positive recommendation in this regard. It is no longer just the position of the Bloc, the NDP, the Liberals or the Conservatives; it is the position of the entire Standing Committee on Finance.
    We hope that the Minister of Finance will incorporate these recommendations directly. He can even act on them without delay. Canada has a $10 billion surplus. On March 31, 2008, if this surplus has not been allocated, it will all go to pay down the debt. That would mean that even though the Standing Committee on Finance recognizes that $1 billion is needed for the forestry industry, $1.5 billion for the manufacturing industry and $3.5 billion for the guaranteed income supplement, the government would turn a blind eye and allocate the surplus to the debt and would not address these problems.
    But we can address them now, before March 31, as we did for the trust. That would enable us to deal with a lot of irritants and emergencies, as the leader of the Bloc Québécois said, in terms of the economy, assistance for workers affected by the economic slowdown and the crises, and equity for seniors who have not received their retroactive guaranteed income supplement payments.
    There are a number of interesting recommendations in the report. Our six conditions have not been met, but we will keep working on that. We would like the government to take real action soon and move forward. This is the perfect opportunity: the Prime Minister is due to meet with the Premier of Quebec shortly. He and the Bloc Québécois, as representatives of the coalition or consensus in Quebec, said that money was needed immediately. The government decided to do an about-face, accept the recommendation and hold a vote on it immediately.
    But the Premier of Quebec, the Bloc Québécois, the people of Quebec, the labour congresses, the forestry sector and industries are saying that more money is needed. This is what remains to be done. More money must be allocated in the coming days, out of this year's surplus.
    I will close there. There many other measures in the budget and, overall, a good number of recommendations by the Bloc Québécois were included. However, some are still missing. We will continue the debate and fight for our proposals. We hope that at budget time, the budget will reflect the consultations that we held with Quebeckers. If the budget does not include what it should, we will vote against it. We are prepared to go to the polls if need be. We have presented what Quebec would like. We now have proof that our numbers have the blessing of the Standing Committee on Finance, which flies in the face of the irresponsible comments made by the Conservative members from Quebec.



    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his presentation today and his work on the finance committee. I think he is very clear and accurate today that a lot of the issues that the Bloc brought forward during the committee are in the report. We did not agree with all of them, but I think they added quite a bit of value to the discussion.
    I want to clarify one thing before I ask my question. In budget 2006 we talked about housing. Our party provided $1.4 billion and invested in an affordable housing trust, and $270 million in the homelessness partnering strategy. The government put a billion dollars in a partnership agreement with the provinces and the municipalities. So there is money being spent on the homelessness and housing issue. It is up to the provinces and the municipalities to actually implement it and to spend that cash. The federal government has made it available.
    The government has done other things that we agreed on in terms of the workers income tax benefit. We are looking at trying to improve on that. There have been improvements for seniors and the capital cost allowance.
    The member talked about the surplus. He said that we should spend all of it and too heck with the debt in a sense. Really, is there a surplus if you have a debt? The surplus is a cash surplus in a year. I do not know what the number is off the top of my head, but we have a $450 billion debt. This is a mortgage that my children and your children, my grandchildren and their grandchildren will be paying. There is no such true thing as a surplus, when you have a huge debt.
    What is the Bloc's position on debt? Why are you so opposed to us paying down--
    Order, please. I let the hon. member commit the error twice hoping it would go away. Three times he used the second person. The hon. member from the Bloc.


    Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. The response will be quite clear.
    For example, out of the $10 billion surplus we will have on March 31, the Bloc thinks that $3 billion should go toward the debt, or roughly 30% of the surplus. The remaining 70% should be allocated to urgent matters. Our country is behaving like a homeowner obsessed with paying down the mortgage as soon as possible, but whose back deck is falling apart. Even Mr. Vaillancourt, the mayor of Laval and spokesperson for the Coalition pour le renouvellement des infrastructures du Québec, used that analogy, but he said it is not the back deck that is in disrepair, but the foundation of the house.
    The ratio of Canada's debt to its gross domestic product has decreased significantly over the past 10 years, to such an extent that we are now the best G-8 country on that score. There is no point in emphasizing that any further when there are urgent needs to address.
    The Bloc thinks that it would be reasonable to put $3 billion toward the debt this year. That would leave an $8 billion margin for next year. With our proposals, if there is no major economic slowdown, there could be an $8 billion surplus at the end of the year.
    Therefore, we are being very responsible. We agree that a portion of it should be invested in paying down the debt. However, in Quebec like everywhere else, problems of fairness need to be resolved, as in the case of the guaranteed income supplement for seniors. For years now, many seniors have not been entitled to their money, to the minimum they need to survive. The government must assume its responsibilities before paying down the debt, especially considering that the plan is doing pretty well. Indeed, our ratio is quickly becoming one of the best.
    I will conclude on this point. A portion of it must be allocated to the debt, but a large portion must also be used to meet these glaring needs in our society. We hope the upcoming budget will reflect these choices.



    Mr. Speaker, I have been on the finance committee for quite a number of years now. The hon. member joined it recently and has been very helpful in contributing to it.
    The idea of the prebudget report is generally to try to influence the finance minister and shape the budget through this report. It is an extensive process that involves a whole variety of things. I wonder whether the hon. member is a bit frustrated by the actions of the government in effectively rendering this report dead on arrival.
    First, there was prorogation. Prorogation essentially took a month out of committee hearings. That is a significant period of time in parliamentary time, as we well know. That took us into October.
    Then well into October we found out that on October 31 a mini budget was going to be presented. The mini budget basically blew out the fiscal space that existed and the government continued on its wild and crazy spending spree. Essentially, there was no money left over.
    The effect of that was that we would not be able to report until this week. As everyone in this chamber knows, the budget is already written. There is nothing left. Even if the government had to hire very expensive speech writers, the budget is already written.
    I wonder whether the hon. member would share Dr. Carty's observations, when he was recently fired, one of which was that this government seems to prefer less advice rather than more.


    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. I do not know if it is because of that, but there is a serious shortcoming in this government's behaviour, namely, the fact that in the fall economic statement we should have seen many of the recommendations being proposed right now. They should have been part of the Minister of Finance's economic statement last fall. Thus, we would have been in a better position to deal with the economic slowdown in the manufacturing and forestry sectors. Perhaps if we had not prorogued and our report had been adopted sooner, the government could have paid attention to it.
    Personally, I would still like to give the government a chance. I think the government still has time to accept the committee's recommendations. As a parliamentarian, I cannot say that I am playing an imaginary game.
    I held very democratic consultations in my riding and then throughout Quebec. The committee made a number of important recommendations. We have an advantage right now: we have a minority government. A majority government can start up its steamroller and do as it wants with any bills, arguing that people will have time to forget. A budget will be presented in a few weeks and if the government has not heeded the recommendations regarding what our citizens want, it will pay the political price. We, as MPs, are here to represent the population and express their opinions. The Bloc Québécois has announced its proposals in advance for what it wants to see in the budget, in terms of how the surplus is used this year and next year. It has also come up with some very concrete, realistic recommendations. We hope the government will listen to us.
    If it adopts the same attitude that it has in a number of other matters, it will not listen. Let us recall Afghanistan and the urgent adoption of a recommendation, two years ago, to extend the mission. According to the government, it was urgent and it was the only thing to do even though they could not answer a single question that the then Minister of Defence had asked when he was in opposition with regard to the pertinence of this mission. Had the government taken another position, we would not be in the current situation of not knowing where we are going with Afghanistan.
    I hope that the government has learned some lessons from this experience. It has been in a minority position for two years. If the Conservatives wish to remain in government, they have to accept what Canadians want, as expressed through their members of Parliament. That is the democratic game as we have played it. We have presented proposals to the House and made recommendations, some of which have been retained by the Standing Committee on Finance. We will continue to debate them. I believe that our fellow citizens want us to have this influence. I believe we will if we continue to act together. When collective recommendations are made on issues, common interests are found.
    For example, this week, the government party voted against our recommendation to provide tax measures for the manufacturing and forestry sectors. We can see that progress has been made because the Conservative position and what the report contains are not the same. The government will have to consider this. Either the MPs on the Standing Committee on Finance did not represent the government's opinion or the government made a mistake last week and may change its position, just as it reversed its position on the trust.
    In the end, it is important that the budget contain elements that will make it a good budget for Quebeckers and for all of Canada. If that is not the case, every one of us must have the courage to rise in this House and vote against the budget if it does not represent what our fellow citizens want in the current situation.
    What they truly want—their basic message—is that the government must be proactive. Standing on the sidelines is not acceptable—


    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Outremont.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to let you know that I plan on sharing my time with the member for Halifax.
    We are seeing the result of the enormous amount of work that was carried out across Canada. Individuals and groups were surveyed on the vision they would like to see in the next budget, and the direction they would like our economy to take in the coming years.
    I worked with the member for Halifax and the member for Victoria on this. It is an extraordinary opportunity to remind people that the NDP, unlike the Bloc Québécois, represents all of Canada, and has representatives from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. This image of the breadth of the country is important, because people tend to forget that to properly represent the economy, we need a balanced vision.
    This is the main point of my speech today. I want to talk about the work that has been done in recent months to try to rebalance the economy. This can be seen in the New Democratic Party minority report, appended to the committee's report. There are points that we completely disagree with, because of where the Conservative government is currently taking our economy.
    Looking back, we can see that the end of the second world war marked the start of attempts to build a Canadian economy that still existed two or three years ago, a balanced economy in which forestry and mining were dominant in the primary sector. Our country's natural resources, which are non-renewable in the case of mines and renewable in the case of forests, need to be used sustainably, in a way that respects future generations, which has often not been the case.
    Canada also needs a processing sector. Too often in its history, Canada would cut its trees and ship them to other countries, including our neighbour to the south. It would also extract its mineral resources and ship them to other countries for secondary and tertiary processing. This vision also needed to be changed. Canada therefore developed ways of doing secondary and tertiary processing here whenever possible. It did not always do enough of this sort of processing, but things were improving.
    Lastly, the Canadian economy was based on a strong service sector centred mainly in Montreal and Toronto at the time. Today, it is unfortunately based less and less in Montreal and more and more in Toronto. Of course, I am speaking as a member from Quebec.
    Once in office, the current government stepped up a process aimed at making Canada a subsidiary of the American economy. I am referring, for example, to a project known as Keystone, which is a way of exporting not only unprocessed crude oil, but also 18,000 jobs to the United States. That is the Conservatives' record.
    The boom in the oil sector in western Canada has had adverse effects on other segments of the economy. As the oil sector heated up, the value of the Canadian dollar, our loonie, rose to unprecedented levels. This had a direct impact on our manufacturers' export capability. It is a simple equation: the higher the value of our dollar, the harder it is for an American company, for example, to buy goods produced in Canada, because the American company has to pay in Canadian dollars and the Canadian dollar is much stronger than it was not long ago when it was worth much less than the American dollar. As a result, hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost in the manufacturing sector.
    Jobs have also been lost in the forestry industry for two reasons: first, we have the overheating of the oil industry, which is also affecting the manufacturing industry; and second, we have the softwood lumber agreement with the U.S. under which we handed over $1 billion for no reason. Under NAFTA, we were totally right to do what we did. Unfortunately, our hands were tied. They kept pushing and we foolishly signed. The NDP was opposed to that agreement, while the Bloc was in favour of it.
    Two industries have suffered the consequences greatly: the forestry industry and the manufacturing industry. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost. That is what we call imbalance.
    Has this government been able to correct the situation? Not at all.


    Last week—I am not talking about before the holidays, but just last week—the very first question I asked the government was whether, before the budget, it could hand over the $1 billion it promised in the form of a trust.
    The response from the hon. member for Pontiac and Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities was rather shocking. He said, from his seat here in this House, that what I was asking for was impossible because it was an expenditure and it needed to be passed with the budget. According to him, it was impossible to do so.
    What happened a few days later, this week? Precisely what he said was impossible to do last week. That is the Conservatives' logic when it comes to the economy.
    We have a real challenge before us. There are things that Canadians agree on, such as having a public health care system that is accessible, universal and open to everyone. What are the Conservatives doing? They are rendering the system meaningless. The NDP is proud to remind Canadians that it was Tommy Douglas who was the precursor to our health care system. He was a member of the CCF, which became the NDP.
    Canadians are proud of having a better health care system than the Americans, but we are worried. This system is not adequately funded.
    There are many things the government can and must do something about, but to which the Conservatives are ideologically opposed, except when they have no choice, as was the case with the $1 billion to help the manufacturing and forestry industries.


    I said at the outset that I would be sharing my time with my colleague from Halifax and I propose to do just that now.
    I remind people that the NDP, in the process that led to the budget consultations and all through it, was able to hear from Canadians. In Halifax for example, 15 of the 18 groups that came in were very clear that they shared our vision and not that of the Conservative government. The Conservative government, by favouring the petroleum sector in the west, by giving over supposed tax breaks that are supposed to help the economy, is only helping companies that made profits and paid taxes, so manufacturing and forestry companies that made no profit last year benefited nothing. Who got the money? The big oil companies and the banks. Did they need it? No.
    The Conservative government has been destabilizing what was up until now a very balanced Canadian economy and in a couple of years it has actually made the situation far worse. So much for good fiscal management by Conservatives. It is a little bit like the situation in the United States where the most catastrophic economic times in recent memory are now taking place under the governance of another right winger, George Bush, a good friend of Steve, but we here in Canada are going to stand up and fight for what is right.
    Order. The hon. member for Outremont knows that he should not have said what he just said.


    Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague, who pointed out that the NDP now has a presence throughout Canada, which became the case when he was elected. There is even an NDP member of Parliament in Quebec now.
    The Bloc Québécois, however, has the advantage of always systematically representing Quebec when it comes to economic issues like those that have arisen in the House. For example, there was a vote on a Bloc Québécois motion proposing that a percentage of the military contracts awarded to Boeing should correspond to the relative size of Quebec's aerospace industry. In other words, over half of the contracts should be awarded exclusively to Quebec, as befits Quebec's presence in the industry.
    At the time, the NDP voted against Quebec. That was a unanimous request, and it had the support of the National Assembly, but the NDP sided with the government on that motion. At the time, the member had not yet been elected to the House. If a vote like that were to come up again and there was a conflict between his party's interests and Quebec's interests, would he vote against his party or against Quebec?


    Mr. Speaker, if ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers' hands.
    My colleague is talking about a vote that took place in the House before I was a member. I have a lot of skills and experience, but I cannot say what I would have done in such a situation because I was not there. However, if the member looks at the past 15 years, he will see that I fought hard every time I had the opportunity to do something for Quebec and its key industries, including the aerospace industry.
    One of my two sons is an aeronautical engineer, and I know how important the industry is to Quebec. All I can do is reassure the hon. member for Jeanne-Le Ber that we will no doubt have future opportunities to discuss this matter. I can assure him that we understand Quebec's economic priorities, particularly in the aerospace sector.


    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the discussion from the colleague from the New Democratic Party who was actively involved in the consultation we had.
    I was reading the supplementary piece that the New Democrats added to the consultation document that we are dealing with today. In it the NDP talks about bridging the infrastructure gap, which I do not disagree with. It talks about dealing with housing, health care, education and public transit. This government has put $33 billion into the infrastructure program over the next seven years.
    As I said to his colleague earlier today, we do not provide housing. We provide funds to the provinces to actually implement housing. It is well over a billion dollars in a trust fund with the provinces.
    In the report the NDP does not mention how much more money the NDP was going to give and where it was going to get that money from. Could the member from the New Democratic Party highlight for us in the House and for Canadians where that money is coming from and how much more money is it putting into that program?


    Mr. Speaker, I will answer in English to be sure my colleague understands.


    The biggest problem of course is the fact that with its massive tax giveaway to corporations that made huge profits last year, especially the banking and petroleum sectors, the government has compromised the leeway that could have existed in our economy.
    What is interesting is that the current Minister of Finance-- and we should always remind people every time we mention his name that the current Minister of Finance, without any consequence, broke the rules for the attribution of contracts recently--was encouraged by the Liberals. It is always worth reminding people that the Liberals do not believe anything. One morning their leader woke up and said, “We need more tax cuts for businesses”. That gave the opportunity to the Minister of Finance to say in so many words, “I didn't think I would be able to cut so much with regard to corporate taxes. Thanks to the Liberals who are pushing me to cut even more, I am going to give the deepest tax cut in Canadian history to the corporations that made the most profits last year”.
    My colleague is quite right that the tax cuts the Conservatives gave to the oil companies and to the banks removed a lot of the room to manoeuvre economically in Canada, but not all is lost.
    The government is continuing to destabilize what had been until quite recently quite a balanced economy in Canada by heating up the oil sector even more by giving tax breaks. Of course the government could not be helping the companies that lost money last year because they did not pay taxes, so they did not get a cent from the $14 billion in tax breaks, but individual companies like EnCana got cheques for $50 million, $60 million, $70 million, a little windfall for its buddies in Alberta from the current government.
    If that is the vision the Conservatives have of Canada, to throw everything they can at companies that are already making huge profits and destroying the environment in Alberta, they are going to be allowed to do that until the public throws them out.



    Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate the hon. member for Outremont on his speech, and also on his recent election victory. It is also important to congratulate the voters in Outremont for having chosen this remarkable man, thereby bolstering the progressive forces here in Parliament and opening the door to a progressive course of action for all of Canada.


    I am very happy to speak briefly in this budget debate. There is never enough time to address all of the issues of concern, so first of all I want to invite every single Canadian who wants to understand more about the New Democrat vision to acquaint themselves with, to familiarize themselves with, to read the New Democratic Party's supplementary report, to which our finance critic has made reference in his very excellent speech.
     What they will see is that not only do we have a fundamentally different set of priorities than this very meanspirited, tight-fisted government, except when it comes to corporations, of course, when it is not tight-fisted in the least, but we have a fundamentally different set of priorities than the so-called Liberal official opposition. I do not know how the Liberals can call themselves the official opposition and again and again abandon their responsibilities in that regard, particularly as it relates to the financial health of the nation.
    First the official opposition does this by goading and egging on the no longer progressive conservative but Conservative government to cut faster and deeper and introduce even greater corporate tax cuts than even the Conservatives had dreamed of, and then, second, the Liberals sit in their seats again and again when it comes to important votes to represent the concerns of Canadians who are not being represented by this government.
    I hope people will acquaint themselves with the supplementary report that has been tabled.
    However, let me say something in a general way, as was referred to by the member for Outremont. I had the privilege to sit in on the finance committee in his stead when the committee visited Nova Scotia. It is literally true that delegation after delegation absolutely disagreed with the priorities of this government and were very clear that what this government had decided to do was reward its corporate friends, the greatest beneficiaries of those deep corporate tax cuts being big oil and big banks, at the expense of the needs of ordinary working people who were desperate to see some reinvestment from that extensive surplus in the things that had been so severely eroded by the Liberals before them.
     I know we hear howling from the Liberal benches that they had this big deficit they had to get rid of, so let us set aside the three years in which the big deficit was the principal preoccupation. Let us talk about the seven years of surplus following.
     Not only did the Liberal government not rebuild and reinvest in the post-secondary education system so our young people could get the education they needed without crippling themselves with debt for life, and not only did it not rebuild the health care system, the Liberal government did not address what is crucial, what is one of the biggest responsibilities of any government in this world today if it is at all serious about a future for the planet and its people: it did not commit the dollars necessary to move us to deliver on our to date completely overlooked commitment to meet our Kyoto targets.
    For me, it was reassuring, I have to say, and why am I not surprised, that delegates from all over--and I want to be fair in saying that they were not just from my riding of Halifax but from other parts of the province and from outside of the province--understood exactly what was wrong with the economic so-called update from this government in the fall, in which it gave away the bank so that it would not be able to address the priorities of Canadians. Let me just very briefly quote some of the representatives.
    The representative of the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers said, and I think very insightfully:
--the crisis created by the massive increase in student tuition fees over the past decade, which actually is a result of a large decrease in core funding to post-secondary education in nineties,[ must] be addressed...through a restoration of core funding to the levels that would allow tuition fees to be reduced, and through the introduction of needs-based programs to provide students with the levels of financial support that will guarantee access to all qualified applicants, regardless of income level.


    In our supplementary report to the finance committee recommendations, we made it very clear that every single cent of the funds that have been in the millennium scholarship fund, and more, need to be reinvested and increased to achieve that aim.
    Second, a long-serving champion of health and education needs in Nova Scotia, Ian Johnson from the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, absolutely had it right when he spelled out the need for the government to abandon plans for corporate tax cuts in order to help implement and develop a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, and when he called, as many others did, on the government to honour the Atlantic accord and stop trying to pretend that it has been fixed, because those funds are desperately needed to meet the needs of ordinary Nova Scotians.
    There were others who championed the cause of those who are the most vulnerable in our society. The director of Feed Nova Scotia, Dianne Swinemar, pleaded for a reversal of the decision in October 2007 to give a $60 billion tax cut and for the understanding that the poorest of the poor have to be the top priority when it comes to the allocation of the nation's resources. Others spoke along the same lines.
     I have to say that the last word, in a sense, goes to I think one of the biggest champions of health at the community level as well as an anti-poverty advocate, an advocate for affordable housing, Paul O'Hara, from the North End Community and Health Centre, who said:
    Government knows what to do, and it's doing the opposite.
     There are lots of benchmarks in child care, in early childhood education, in affordable housing and minimum wage. There doesn't seem to be any real integrity in the government approach....
    There are ordinary people all across this country who are suffering because of the series of budget choices that have been very short-sighted and meanspirited, made by the previous Liberal government and followed by this no longer progressive Conservative government.
     I want to mention this and I have to say that this is just typical. This morning, just before I came over to the House to participate in this debate, I met with representatives of the Lung Association of Canada. They are doing the kind of work that is being done by NGOs and community agencies all across this country and are pleading for the government to understand how underfunded their important work is in terms of research, policy development and treatment. They pointed out that while the Lung Association gets only 2% of the funds for its work, in terms of health needs it actually represents 6% of the urgent need for attention from the government.
    However, there are things being done that are progressive, and they are being done in spite of the government. In Nova Scotia today, the NGOs and the health agencies came together with the provincial government, and I want to say good for the government for signing on, under the auspices of the Lung Association, to commit themselves to a national lung health framework. These are the kinds of initiatives that deserve and cry out for funding.
    As well, the Alzheimer's Society was here on Parliament Hill to plead the case of adequate funding for a national Alzheimer's strategy.
    In summation, what is very distressing is how little the government is in tune with the needs of ordinary, everyday working people and how pathetic it is that the official opposition does not have any more sense of being in tune with those needs. Therefore, I am very pleased to speak in support of the supplementary report submitted by the formidable finance critic of the New Democratic Party to try to get the government back on track with progressive values and progressive initiatives on behalf of Canadians.


    Mr. Speaker, while I thank the hon. member for her intervention today in the discussion on the prebudget consultations that the finance committee has put together, obviously the member and I disagree on a number of areas. I have two questions for my colleague.
    First, that member and the previous NDP speaker claimed that some of these corporate entities are getting these major tax cuts, but the corporate tax cuts are across the board for all corporations, for all job creating companies. Why is the member so opposed to companies that create jobs for ordinary people?
    Second, is there ever a program not meeting its objectives that the New Democrats would allow to end? Or is every program meeting its objectives? Do those members have any sense of program evaluation? What would they like to do in that area? If the budget comes forward with some concepts on where we should reallocate money, would those members be in favour of that? Is there any program, under any sun, that they disagree with?
    Very briefly, Mr. Speaker, because I have only a couple of minutes, I will say that the member apparently is in complete accord with both the Liberal Party and presumably his own party with the idea that across the board tax cuts for corporations are somehow automatically going to generate good quality jobs for people--
    It does.
    We need to talk about the evidence, then, because we know that in the auto sector and the forestry sector across the country there are many examples of companies whose last consideration is Canadian jobs. We need a more targeted strategy. We need a comprehensive strategy in each of these sectors, which is what all of my colleagues have been pleading for.
    As for across the board corporate tax cuts, the biggest beneficiaries are big oil and big banks, yet big oil is thumbing its nose at the need for us to be concerned about the environment and the planet and the big banks are gouging people in every way they can with service charges and other things.
    It is a question of priorities. It is a question of not subscribing to a whole lot of rhetoric about how if we throw big tax cuts at corporations they will generate the best jobs. It is a question of doing it on an evidence based basis.
    Mr. Speaker, the intervention of my colleague from Halifax in today's debate is an important one. The NDP minority report my colleague mentioned talks about the importance of investments in Canada's social infrastructure as well as the physical infrastructure and notes that this investment must be done in partnership with provinces, territories and municipalities.
    We know that one of the areas where that investment is so desperately needed is housing. Over the last six months since I have been working on housing issues on behalf of the NDP caucus, there has been report after report about the need for a national housing program and the need for the federal government to make a long, enduring, and durable contribution to solving the housing crisis in Canada.
    The Federation of Canadian Municipalities, the Big City Mayors Caucus, the Wellesley Institute, the report on women's homelessness in the north, and the cities of Victoria and Calgary have been unified in that call, yet we still do not have a national housing program in Canada. Could the member talk about the importance of that and why the government has not moved on this important issue?
    There is only a minute left for the hon. member.
    Then, Mr. Speaker, I will have to give a very short answer. The single biggest reason why the Conservative government has done nothing about a national housing program is what the Liberal Party did in office when it eliminated literally the best national housing program in the world, which was introduced between 1972 and 1974--and it is important for people to know their history--because of the pressure of the New Democratic Party in a minority government era.
    Then the Liberals came to power talking about desperate we were for housing and they outlined specific commitments, but from 1993 to 2006 the Liberals did absolutely nothing about putting together a national housing program. I guess we could call it the Liberals letting the Conservative government off the hook.


    Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to contribute to the debate on this prebudget consultation. As the chair of the finance committee, it is interesting to listen to the dialogues of the members.
    Before I go on to what I would like to present, I would like to indicate that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Northumberland—Quinte West.
    I would like to describe to Canadians and to this House exactly the process that we went through to get to where we are today in tabling the report. It was a little bit late and we had to ask for an extension. It should have been done, according to the Standing Orders, in the early part of December. We had to ask for an extension because of the prorogation.
    The prorogation also added more complications to our ability to travel as much as we wanted to across Canada to listen to people, but we did actually hear 400 different submissions and had 200 presenters before the committee, so it was not that we abbreviated it too much but it certainly was a little different than what was initially laid out.
    Last June the committee decided it would study taxation, so we requested to have the submissions based on how the ideal tax system in Canada should work and what changes were to be made in that regard. That is what we listened to up until we got back into session and the committee was reconstituted in November.
    At that time, the table had shifted somewhat and we had seen some different things happen in the Canadian economy that we wanted to address in our report. Therefore, there was a motion taken in the committee that we would expand our criteria from taxation to look at the higher dollar.
    Before I get into what I want to talk about with regard to the higher dollar and some of the taxation recommendations that we made, it is important to understand the process of the committee and what we are actually trying to accomplish in the report.
    Two days ago, on Tuesday, we had a delegation of Russian representatives come to our committee and their questions were actually very interesting. They asked us how we have accountability in our political process here in Canada, how we make sure we are getting value for money, and what the committee is trying to do with the prebudget report that would add to that accountability.
    Those were the kinds of questions they were asking us. They are very good questions and questions that the Canadian public should understand because in the committees, particularly in a minority government where the opposition has the larger number of votes and outnumbers the governing party in the committees, we have to understand that we try to lower the political temperature in the committee meetings so that we can talk collectively about what is in the best interest of Canada because we do not report to a minister or a ministry. We report to this Parliament, to this House, and therefore the report contains recommendations to the government in power with regard to the things that it should do in the best interests of the people of Canada.
    That is what we are trying to do in committee. That is what we tried to do in this report. I have heard a lot of the banter back and forth and it seems so political. I am sure people at home are wondering how in the world we came up with any consensus in this report. The reality is we came up with a considerable amount of consensus in the report.
    We are now laying the report at the feet of the government and I want to just read a little bit of some of the backdrop of the Canadian fundamentals that we are living in at the present time.
    Canada is in its 16th year of economic expansion, the second longest period in Canadian history. Canada is the fastest growing G-7 country over the past decade in employment and living standards. Canada's job market is the best in a generation. Our unemployment rates are at the lowest in 33 years. The share of adult Canadians working is at a record high. Inflation remains low and stable, the best in the past 15 years.
    Canada is emerging as a superpower in energy. We are the largest producer of clean hydroelectric power in the world. We are the second largest in oil reserves next to Saudi Arabia, and arguably we are the largest but we will not get into that. We rank third in global natural resource production.
    Canada is one of the few countries with a public pension system that is financially sustainable,and we are on the best fiscal footing of any of the G-7 nations. All levels of government are in surplus for the first time in 60 years, and we are the only member of the G-7 with a budget surplus and falling debt burden. Since coming into power, this government has created 700,000 new jobs in the past two years.


    That gives members an idea of what we are now laying before this Parliament as far as recommendations in the upcoming budget, but a fiscal footing that is to be envied by any country in the world. It is important to look at some of the things that we did agree on when we look at the recommendations coming in this report.
    We can talk about our supplementary reports and I like the words “supplementary reports” because they are not opposition reports. They are really supplement to what we are doing, but the things we do agree on are the basis of this report and are very important for us to consider.
    We have said we wanted to increase the income threshold to cut personal income taxes. We all agreed on that to make sure the working class would be able to have the appropriate advantages. We all agreed that should take place. We wanted Canadians to withdraw money from their RRSPs to be able to purchase their first homes and to be able to fund their continued education. Those are things that we all agreed on that would be fundamental for enhancing the benefit of all Canadians.
    The second thing we wanted to do is make sure we get people out of poverty and into the workplace as much as possible. We want to enhance the working tax credit benefit so that there would be no negative incentive for those who are not in the workplace, who are being subsidized, and who are trying get out of that situation and into the workplace.
    We wanted to extend the five year capital cost allowance to manufacturers and processing for machinery and equipment. That one comes mainly because of the second priority when we came back in November. We realized that the climate we came into was not only the strong fiscal footing, but it also had something else that was looming that happened in the last five months prior to the committee actually launching into this study.
    That was the massive, unprecedented increase in the value of the Canadian dollar with respect to American currency. It moved up 16% in five months. It went from 94¢ to $1.10 and that had major impacts with regard to manufacturing, the forestry sector, the agriculture sector, tourism and many others.
    We wanted to do a quick study on that as well, so we incorporated that into our recommendations. We spent a week or more debating those issues and looking at what we should do with regard to the Canadian dollar in order to help. I believe we have seen the government react more quickly than I have ever seen before because we came up with $1 billion for the forestry and manufacturing sectors for those communities losing these different factories and plants, particularly in the softwood lumber industry.
    I know all about that, by the way. My Bloc colleagues are saying it is all about Quebec which is being hurt more than anywhere else. In forestry, there is not a community in my riding that is not impacted negatively by the forest industry. The forest industry is going through a massive problem with regard to the slowdown in the United States. The demand is down. The high dollar has impacted it very negatively. In my area the pine beetle has impacted the industry even more significantly than both of those. So it is the ultimate storm. I know all about that.
     I have lost a mill in a small community just recently. It has a major impact in the riding. We understand that full well. It is not just in one area of the country, it is the entire country. That is why the acceleration of the capital cost allowance would be very positive. It is one of the things we need to do. We need to do as much as we possibly can to get us through a short time. Before we get too far down on that thought, there is a quote that I would like to read from the president of the Forest Products Association of Canada. He came before the committee and said:
The best thing you can do for communities is to create a business climate where people want to invest in Canada...I want to be very clear, though, and this is something where I think there has been misunderstanding: we don't want subsidies. We don't want you to come in and save a mill that's uneconomic. What we want to do is make this a place where mills are economic.
     That is the difference and that is what really we need to do, not pick winners and losers but set up a climate where whatever is being created is going to be a winning factor. I could go on in many other things. There are a couple more and I only have a minute.
    I am going to lay out here other things we agreed on for consideration: one is the Olympics. We believed unitedly as a committee that the Olympics are important not only for the pride of our country but to make sure we deal with issues such as childhood obesity and others, and a $30 million investment to the Olympics for the road to excellence is something we all agreed on.
    We wanted to make sure that we increased the capital cost allowance for the railways to make sure we are competitive on that footing as well.


    There are many other things that are in the report that we agreed on. I encourage all members to read it carefully. I know the Minister of Finance has been following the dialogue. It is very important that all members read the report.
    I will say in closing that we did not want to issue a report saying what we believed. We wanted to issue a report saying what we heard and what we recommended. That is why it reads the way it does.


    Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to hear the speech given by my hon. colleague, the committee chair, who masterfully guided the deliberations that led to this kind of report. Naturally, this does not mean that we agree on every point.
    However, one thing seems crucial to me: some sort of improvement. A year ago, when the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology was making recommendations for the manufacturing sector, there was unanimity. Several months passed before anyone would even consider implementing those recommendations. Only one of them was retained: a two-year accelerated capital cost allowance. It became clear, especially in the case of pharmaceutical companies and other sectors that have to seek foreign investments, that a five-year guarantee was needed. We hope the minister will follow our recommendation. In fact, I met with the minister yesterday.
    The recommendations we all agreed on concerning the manufacturing and forestry sectors advocate some $1 billion for the forestry sector, $1.5 billion for the manufacturing sector and $1 billion for infrastructure. I would like to know if my hon. colleague wants the Minister of Finance to introduce a bill as soon as possible to ensure that this year's surplus is used to make this money available.


    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the forest industry, I understand the problems it is going through. I have described the problems. I live with this in my riding on a daily basis.
    We have actually done a number of things. There are many things we are recommending, such as what the president of the Forest Products Association of Canada suggested, which is to build a climate where we will have an industry that will succeed.
    We signed the softwood lumber agreement. Thank goodness the House agreed with the agreement and we have it in place. The agreement is allowing us an opportunity to do more for the industry than ever before. We now have some stability on that side.
    How do we deal with the rising dollar, the slowdown in the United States and the markets? We must make sure that we seize the opportunity of the high dollar with an accelerated five year capital cost allowance, so that the forest industry can bring in equipment and upgrade itself. It must become more efficient. The more efficient these plants are, the more we will be able to compete. We will then build a climate where they will succeed in the long run for Canada.
    The idea of simply giving the industry more money, and without setting the climate so it can succeed, is a foolish way to go. The committee understands this. We heard that from many industries.
    It is important that we set that climate in place and that does reflect a number of the recommendations that we have in our report. What my friend is suggesting is further to that some actual funding with which I would disagree.
    Mr. Speaker, I would ask if the member would agree to reinstating the working income tax incentive to the level of the previous Liberal government?
    The member can think about that. Before he answers, I would like to make a couple of corrections. The member from the Conservatives talked about his party wanting to lower the tone in committees. I think he should go downstairs and talk to the chair of the procedure and House affairs committee. The committee is now filibustering and making the Conservative Party look silly. The member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre is doing the talking. The committee members are saying that it is ridiculous, that he is repetitive and wasting thousands of taxpayers' dollars.
    The member also talked about the lowest unemployment rate which is not true. The Liberal finance critic made that clear when he mentioned all the lost jobs within the last few weeks. We totally agree that it is a great move to have the working poor tax incentive. However, it should be reinstated to the level that it was under the Liberals.


    There is less than a minute for the hon. member to reply.
    Mr. Speaker, in less than a minute I am going to try to rattle through the member's questions as fast as I possibly can. When it comes to dealing with the unemployment rates, we have created 700,000 new jobs in a two year period. That record has been unequalled by any government in the past that I know of and in any time period in history.
    We also see what is coming which is a looming slowdown in the United States as a country because of what is happening in the housing industry there.
    This government brought in $60 billion reduction in taxes in our mini budget last fall. This is leadership which has never been seen before by any government in recent history.
    I will not go into the filibustering in committees. I try to be as civil as I possibly can, but there is a tremendous amount of dysfunctionality in our committees. It happens in all the committees. It is appalling because members do not really understand that when they are in committee, they should lower the temperature, especially in a minority government and deal with recommendations that can then be brought forward to this House.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Yellowhead for his excellent presentation and for sharing his time with me.
    One of the questions asked of me and many parliamentarians is: How much tax relief has the government provided since taking office? I can advise the House that the government believes that Canadians pay too much tax. One of the principal reasons I became involved in the political movement is because I think Canadians are overtaxed, which is why, since coming to office, we have taken action that provides over $41 billion in tax relief to Canadians in over just three years.
    Going forward, the government is committed to providing additional tax relief for Canadians, for individuals to improve the rewards from their working, saving and investing. This commitment is supported by the tax back guarantee.
    Today we heard complaints that we are spending far too much time worrying about the debt. Since taking office, we have reduced our mortgage on each Canadian by over $1,500. That is a significant amount of money in a very short period of time.
    This tax back guarantee ensures that every time the debt is paid down, Canadians will realize that paying down of the debt by tax savings. That is the interest that Canadians pay, not the government. The government does not have any money. The only money the government has is the money it takes out of the pockets of Canadians, both corporate and personal. We intend to give that back as a direct result of paying down our mortgage.
    It is fair to ask what we are doing to ensure that Canada's corporate tax system is competitive with other countries. We recently heard the bantering from the fourth party in the House that by having the lowest corporate tax we somehow are giving favours to people. We are giving favours. We are giving favours to the men and women who will have the jobs that corporate Canada creates. Governments do not create jobs. People and companies create jobs. Small and medium sized businesses create jobs.
    We are building a tax environment that is internationally competitive and neutral with respect to business investment decisions. We want to encourage companies in the rest of the world to move their corporate headquarters and plants to Canada and create employment here because we will have a competitive tax base, not only for the companies but for the people who work for them. We believe this is crucial for creating the right conditions for business to grow and, more important, prosper.
    This government is committed to an economic plan and it is called Advantage Canada. It will make Canada's overall tax rate on new business investment the lowest, as I previously stated, in the G-7.
    Since 2006, this government has taken a number of actions to enhance business tax competitiveness, including: eliminating the federal capital tax in January 2006; eliminating the corporate surtax for all corporations this year; reducing the corporate statutory income tax rate to 18.5% by 2011 from the 21% in 2007; and providing temporary tax assistance for Canada's manufacturing section.
    We are ahead of the curve. We just heard south of the border that its economy is in significant challenge. The President of the United States just announced reductions in tax so that he can stimulate consumer spending. We did that six weeks earlier. We are ahead of the curve. Maybe the people in the United States should call George Bush the Prime Minister of their country, which would be a good idea because we are ahead of the curve.


    We are also aligning our capital cost allowance rates with useful life for manufacturing buildings and other assets. As a result of the government's actions and recent provincial initiatives, Canada's overall tax rate on new business investment will fall by 2011 to the second lowest in the G-7 from the third highest.
    As an Ontarian, I respectfully suggest to the Premier and Government of Ontario, the province in which I live, to look at what we have done with regard to our corporate tax rate and I encourage Ontario to reduce its current corporate tax rate. I know the province made some progress and I encourage Mr. McGuinty and his government to continue to reduce taxes for corporations and to match the federal government's move in that area. That would go a long way toward ensuring that in Northumberland—Quinte West, and indeed in all of Ontario, we will be as competitive as any of our neighbours to the south.
    Some of the key points in budget 2007 proposed significant benefits for low income Canadians, those who need tax reductions the most. That includes the $550 million annually through the working income tax benefit to make work more rewarding for 1.2 million low income individuals and families. This tax plan will remove 230,000 low income taxpayers from the tax rolls.
    We introduced the new registered disability savings plan to improve the financial security and well-being of children with severe disabilities. I met with several constituents in my riding who are worried. They are getting older and they have children and young adults, and getting older adults, suffering from diseases, such as Down's syndrome, and they are worried about what will happen to their children when they are gone. They were most pleased with the 2007 budget when we introduced the registered disability savings plan that would help look after their children when they are no longer here.
    Constituents are also very pleased with the tax measures that build on the tax relief from budget 2006 which removed 655,000 low income Canadians from the federal tax rolls. We also build on support already provided for low income Canadians by the federal government. Those include: $3.7 billion in support for low and modest income Canadians through the goods and services tax credit; $11.7 billion for families with children, including the universal child care benefit, the Canada child tax benefit and the national child benefit of which more than 40% goes to families with less than a $20,000 income; more than $7.4 billion for Canada's low income seniors through the guaranteed income supplement; $1.4 billion to provide basic social development programs for first nations in the areas of federal responsibility; and $3.3 billion to support youth housing and programs for legal aid, immigration and refugee settlement.
    I would like to talk about the reduction of the GST and how it relates to people who do not pay any federal income tax and do not pay any income tax whatsoever. That is the one area that a government can influence the amount of tax Canadians pay.
    In the House some time ago, in a debate discussing certain benefits, a member across the way made a remark when I mentioned that when people go to the grocery store they pay GST. He said that we do not pay GST on groceries. I made a challenge when I was on an open line radio show and asked folks, when they came out of the grocery store with their groceries, to look near the bottom of their receipt where it shows the amount paid. I told them that they would see that both GST and PST had been paid. I advised them to look at the difference in savings, the 2% that we would be saving people, and figure out how much that will save them in a year. In itself it may not be a huge amount but in addition to the other tax reductions that we have made for low and medium income families, especially for seniors, I think that adds to the significance of lowering taxes because every cent of tax we do not collect goes into our economy and helps create jobs.


    Mr. Speaker, I want to get to the issue of the GST because my colleague just talked about the reductions that we have made to the GST.
    There is one thing I am not sure made it on the list. Right now when people buy a new home, the first section of it does not attract GST but after $350,000 the GST starts to be attracted and then after a certain level it is full GST. Since that has not changed due to inflation in 12 or 13 years, I recommended that we move that amount up. The cost of housing for young families and families moving into their second homes has increased considerably and the thresholds to help people get into their homes need to change. Let us face it. Those GST costs get passed directly to the consumer. The builders do not pay them in the end.
    My question for my colleague is this. Do you think that moving the thresholds, when the GST is attracted to new housing, would be of assistance to the residents in your riding?
    I would just remind the hon. member to address the questions through the Chair and not directly to his colleague.
    The hon. member for Northumberland--Quinte West.
    Mr. Speaker, it is a significant savings. I think it is around a $20,000 savings on the amount of money he just mentioned for a house.
    We know that in Canada we continue to see an investment in new housing that is not occurring south of the border, and, as the member for Yellowhead and the members from the Bloc Québécois have mentioned, it is impacting the forest industry and the downturn in its housing market. Our GST reduction will not only save families money but will go a long way to help maintain some of the employment in our lumber industry.
    However, it goes further than that. The argument we hear time and time again is that someone who is not making a huge purchase will not benefit by that. I will give an example of a personal nature from the people I meet who work in the constituency.
    A lady came in the other day and said that she was one of those people who really thought that the GST did not mean very much. She heard me mention on the radio about looking at the grocery bill and she said that on her bill it was $1.24 this week. However, she went on to say that her refrigerator had gone on the fritz and that she had to buy a new one. She said that the GST savings was a little better than $1.24.
    Quite frankly, it is not only for housing, but for those people who need to replace old appliances in their homes, it is a significant savings.


    Mr. Speaker, what would be even more helpful for that woman would be a big rebate for getting an energy efficient appliance, but that is not my question.
    My question is whether the member will support us in reinstating the millennium scholarships.
    As members know, at the millennium year, when the rest of the world was building concrete structures to celebrate the millennium, Canada invested in its people and we put out this wonderful program, most of which goes to low income people. In my riding alone, there were at least 869 millennium bursaries totalling $2,607,000. We have had many students here in the parliamentary precinct. It has helped them so much.
    Now that the fund has run out, would the member support us in getting it reinstated so we can carry on with that excellent program?
    Mr. Speaker, I understand that it was a unanimous recommendation by the finance committee that the millennium program be continued, and I would support that.
     I will tell members why this government supports education. It is more than just words. There has been a 40% increase in the federal budget toward post-secondary education, one of the largest, if not the largest, increase in post-secondary education in the history of this great dominion. More than that, the government believes it is necessary as we move toward a more knowledge based economy.
    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the prebudget debate.
    When I used to sit on the finance committee, I enjoyed travelling the country and going into different communities with my colleagues from Scarborough—Guildwood and Markham—Unionville and other distinguished members of our party. We would listen to Canadians, hear what they had to say and had an opportunity to put that into a report.
    I had the chance last year, although I am not a member of the committee, to sit in on one session held in Halifax, in December, in my home community of Dartmouth—Halifax. I found that very useful too. It is important to hear from Canadians.
    I remember being on the finance committee the day after the government announced the cuts back in the fall of 2006. At that point in time, pre-scheduled to meet with us that very day was the Canadian Museums Association. The guy had a presentation to give but he decided not to give it because it was irrelevant. He said that the association had been cut to bone and that it did not make sense. He asked why the government had done that. In our consultations that followed, we heard more and more from people who had their programs cut. Those cuts tell us a lot about the government and its ideological approach.
     I want to focus my comments on areas for which I now have critic responsibility, which is the human resources area. Some of those cuts included, incredibly, literacy. I believe $17.7 million was cut from literacy programs. That is hard to believe. Literacy Nova Scotia puts programs together on bubble gum and toothpicks. It hardly has any money. What little money it had was cut out from underneath.
     I received letters from Learners of Nova Scotia. One learner in the riding of Kings—Hants sent me his story. He never had a chance until he hooked in with a literacy group and now his program was in danger of shutting down. Literacy Nova Scotia had no money and could not continue after the cuts.
     I met with the department and the minister at the time. I asked them what they were doing. They told me not to worry about it. Although they had taken $17 million away, they said that they had tens of millions of dollars that would go into literacy. I asked them where it would go and I was told they would let me know.
    I then asked the literacy groups if they were receiving any money and they told me no. I asked the department where the money had gone. I was told it had gone to two groups, but the rest of the money would be coming. An awful lot of things are coming, and not particularly fast.
    Recently we put a question on the order paper. We asked what the funding was for literacy last year. This is the response we received from the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development. It said, “These amounts of funding were provided to national, provincial and local organizations for literacy in the years as follows: 2005-2006, $33,359,000; 2006-2007, $16,800,000”.
    This is half of what had been given the year before. Where is the money for the literacy groups? It is gone.
    At the same time, $6.5 million was cut from the Canadian volunteerism initiative, the CVI. Its total budget was $7.5 million of which $6.5 million came from the federal government. It chopped it all. The group puts together the infrastructure for volunteering.
    There is not one member in the House of Commons who did not get here because of volunteers. Most of us, on all sides of the House, have been volunteers in many capacities, whether helping the Heart and Stroke Foundation, or the Canadian Cancer Society or maybe simply providing care to loved ones at the end of their lives, or a child who has autism, or a child who has special needs, or an aunt or an uncle who needs help.
     If we take the volunteerism out of Canada, we collapse. If we take away the support of voluntary caregivers, for example, and let the system provide the nursing care and the respite care, the full care, the system will be bankrupt virtually overnight. There is not an area in Canadian society where we cannot look to and say that it relies on volunteers.


    I was president in Nova Scotia of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I believe we had 16 paid staff, but thousands of unpaid staff who went knocking on doors on cold February days. Some are out there now, knocking on doors to raise money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Six and half million measly dollars was cut by the government. It is shameful. It is unacceptable.
    We recently had an opportunity in my riding. The member for York Centre was touring Canada. He calls it, “It takes the country to fight poverty”. He came to my riding. The member for Halifax West and I co-hosted a meeting in a church basement, expecting some people to come out to talk about poverty. Three hundred people turned out to talk about poverty and to talk about our leader, the leader of the Liberal Party, who came out with his 30:50 plan to tackle poverty, to reduce the number of Canadians living below the poverty line by at least 30% and cut in half the number of children living in poverty over five years.
    Poverty is not a vote getter. People who really live in poverty need help the most. The Metro Turning Point Shelter In my community has 60 beds that are full every night. Men come in between 7 o'clock and 11 o'clock in the evening. They sleep in one room in beds that were surplus from a prison, I believe. Eighty per cent of them either have mental health or addiction issues. Imagine what it is like to sleep in that room.
     In the morning they get up at 7 o'clock and go to Hope Cottage, which is a multi-denominational church that sponsors a food bank. They go there for their food and they spend their days in the street.
    Some of the younger ones may be involved with Phoenix Youth Programs, which deals with troubled young citizens who have issues with mental health and many of them with addictions. The coalition on homelessness does what it can to support the people who do this, the Canadian Mental Association. However, one thing about those folks is they do not generally vote because they spend their time trying to live.
    The leader of a national party, who has the opportunity to form a government, has said that he will draw a line in the sand and cut poverty by 30% and child poverty by 50% over five years. People have talked about poverty for many years. Some things that have come along, like the child tax benefit, have made a difference. For a leader to stand up and say that he will stake his government on hitting these goals is pretty inspiring for these people.
    I talked to a couple of people. One came to me afterwards and said that he had worked against me the first time I ran. He worked with the NDP. However, he now is working for the Liberal Party because the NDP are not doing this kind of thing in our community.
    Somebody else asked to speak to the member for York Centre after the meeting. The person never believed the Liberals could take a big bite out of poverty, that we could have a national early learning and child care plan either, but the Liberal party gave it to the people and because of that, the person was with us. That is pretty powerful stuff.
    The leader of the Liberal Party has come out with a plan which would, among other things, create the making work pay benefit to lower the welfare wall and improving the Canada child tax benefit to support working families by making the non-refundable child tax credit into a refundable credit, so even those who do not pay tax get it.
    We often hear that the GST is great for people who are poor. The guys staying at Metro Turning Point do not go out to by an Escalade in the afternoon. They are not taking advantage of it. A lot of people simply cannot.
    Another part of our plan is to help lift vulnerable seniors out of poverty by increasing the GIS, to honour the Kelowna accord, a plan for aboriginal Canadians, and a number of other things too such as fighting for access to things like affordable housing, child care, public transit.
    My recommendation for the government would be to look at some of these things and see if it could not, for once, do something for the people who need help the most.
    I want to talk about education. I know I talk about it a lot, but it is an important message. Canada is a nation that is highly educated, and we have done pretty well. We have done well in some ways more by accident than design. We are a big nation, huge in natural resources with a relatively small population, largely spread in central centres. We do not have the kinds of tornados that swept through the United States yesterday. We do not have the kinds of natural disasters we see across many continents. We have not had world wars fought on our soil. We have had things pretty good.


    We now face new challenges in the world. We face the emerging economies of China, India and Brazil. They are not our enemies, but they will be competitors for human capital over the next number of years.
    We also see huge investments being made by OECD nations, which know they have to increase their skill level. They know they have to increase every citizen's ability not only for their own sake, but so they can contribute to their national economies.
    One of the last acts of the previous Liberal government in 2005 was to bring an economic update into the House. We wanted to focus on helping students. We wanted to help all students because we felt it was important, but particularly important was to help those most in need. That update included $550 million over five years to extend Canada access grants to 55,000 students from low income families. The grants would have been extended to all four years of an undergrad education.
    The update also included $2.2 billion over five years to improve student financial assistance and make post-secondary education more accessible for low and middle income Canadians. There was money for internships and MBA scholarships. Money for workplace training to enhance participation by aboriginal Canadians was also included. There was money to specifically assist persons with disabilities to get post-secondary education.
    Young Canadians, and they may be in their early twenties, have come to me because they are faced with a particular challenge. I am sure other members of Parliament see them as well. Many of these young kids graduated from grade 12 feeling like they belonged. However, other kids, who were part of their graduating class, were heading off to university or community college or getting a job. Those the kids are left at home because there is a black hole once they leave high school.
    The kids who come to see me do not look for much. They are looking for some workplace training. They are looking for an opportunity to get a job to do what they can do to provide for themselves and society. Our Liberal government put $165 million in the update to help those kids have a better chance at an equitable life. When the government was defeated and the Conservatives came in, that all went out the window. It is a crying shame because we are not doing all we can to assist children to get the education they need.
    Another program was the summer jobs program, which we remember from last year. The Conservative government knew it worked, but it had to put its own stamp on it. The government changed the program from the summer career placement program to the summer jobs program. It reduced the amount of money and changed the criteria.
    Organizations across this nation, almost all of them not for profit, relied on the summer jobs program. Students thought this was crazy. There was a big fuss by a lot of members of Parliament on this side of the House. I remember one day last year, eight different Liberal members stood up in question period and asked a question about that summer jobs program. It clearly was broken, but the Conservative government said that things were fine.
    We asked if the government was going to put more money into fixing the hole. The answer was no, things were just great. In the fall, the government slipped $45 million into the supplementary estimates to cover its tracks. I will give the present minister credit for going back to the old Liberal program. We will have to see how it unfolds over the next few months.
    That clearly showed the government did not respect students or community organizations, made up of volunteers who help us run the country.
    There are some good ideas out there. I do not have to give all the answers, but let me talk about a few recommendations on the post-secondary side.
    My colleague from Yukon was 100% correct about the millennium scholarship foundation. I was pleased to hear the previous Conservative speaker say that he supported it.
    The millennium scholarship foundation was set up in the late 1990s by the Liberal government, and it has been a success. There were some problems early on with respect to it. There were some clawbacks in some of the provinces. There were some issues with getting it organized. It now works very well. Every province and every territory work with the millennium scholarship foundation and want it renewed. The foundation provides about $350 million every year of almost exclusively needs based funding for students. That needs to be replenished. We cannot afford to lose $350 million of funding for students.


    Almost everyone wants to see the millennium scholarship replenished, or some of those people who I think have an ideological aversion to the millennium scholarship want to replace it with a needs based granting system. We definitely need to do something.
    The Canada student loans program needs to be redone and looked at in a whole new way. We need to open it up to more people. We need to expand its scope. We need to reduce the cost of borrowing so that it makes more sense for students. We need to reduce bankruptcy provisions for students along with it.
    Those are my views. I encourage the government to have a look at that. We studied some of this when I was on the finance committee.
    Julian Benedict, who heads up the Coalition for Student Loan Fairness, has put together a lot of work on this. This is not new. This is not something the government has to study to death. The solutions exist.
    Invest in research and innovation. Build on the great progress of the Liberal government in the late 1990s and early in this century, when the economy was finally on track after that $41 billion annual deficit was turned into a surplus. We started to invest in research and innovation. I would admit that like poverty, it is not a big vote getter, but it may well be the single most important achievement of Canada in the last 10 years in becoming competitive.
    Ten years ago we used to hear about the brain drain. In the Globe and Mail we would read about losing researchers to the United States and other parts of the world. It does not happen now. We are repatriating researchers to Canada because of those investments in CFI, CIHR, the granting councils and a whole host of research oriented areas. We are starting to lose that. And what did the government do? It fired Dr. Art Carty, one of the pre-eminent scientists in this country, who was leading the charge on a lot of this and had great respect in the research community. It is pretty scandalous.
    Why do we not invest in research? Taking the indirect costs of research was something else from the economic update and we increased it to 40%. The Conservative government turned that over. Invest in the CIHR. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research came to the finance committee, 13 institutes that do unbelievable work. I know about the CIHR not because I am a doctor or because I am particularly scientifically gifted, but because I was involved in the national board of the Heart and Stroke Foundation when the CIHR came along. It changed research in Canada.
    Organizations like the Heart and Stroke Foundation redid their governance. I know because I was part of it. I have the scars from that. We redid our governance so that we could pool money to take advantage of the CIHR which now in my view is being marginalized. We are losing another great researcher; Alan Bernstein has left his head position at the CIHR to go to New York. We need to do all of these things.
    We should talk about the Atlantic accord. I am sure my colleague from Gander—Grand Falls will tell us. We stood in the House about a year ago when the budget was being read and realized the Conservatives were killing the Atlantic accord, the most important piece of economic development for the province of Nova Scotia and for Newfoundland and Labrador. The right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard signed that deal in 2004 guaranteeing Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia exclusive access to their offshore resources and all of a sudden it was being killed. What could be done?
    We know what happened. First the then minister of foreign affairs who is now the minister of defence said, “Nobody is going to be kicked out of our caucus for voting on principle”. That was before he realized there was no one over there who had principles. Then they changed their minds. All Canadians want the Atlantic accord back.
    There are a number of things the government could do to improve on the budget it is proposing to bring forward. We know that Tory times are hard times and we see coming down the pike the possibility of a recession. What is troubling is that the misery being inflicted on the poor people in Canada because of a right-wing ideology appears set to continue. Ask women's groups, minority groups which lost the court challenges program, literacy groups, hard-working public servants who are losing their jobs because they were doing their jobs. Ask students what they are going to do with an $80 tax credit, working families who find it tough to get child care. Tory times are tough times and we deserve better.


    Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member opposite. He concluded by ranting against right-wing ideology, intimating that somehow Canadians do not sympathize with this.
    I would like to relate to the member the reaction I receive in my constituency to some of the things the government has done. There are some very popular measures. One of those is the pension income splitting and another is the $1,200 per child assistance to families.
    I come from a riding that has the dubious distinction of having the highest proportion of seniors in Canada. One of the things that is very important to them is something else that we have been doing that enables the government to reduce taxes and give back to parents some of the money that it has taken from them. Tax reduction is something that we have absolutely emphasized is important to all Canadians.
    When the member rants against those who have a right-wing ideology, I challenge him to go out and talk to the people of Canada about the specific measures that this government has implemented and what they mean to them. I think he will find out and he will agree that they actually support what we are doing.
    One of the key things that I want to ask the member's opinion on is whether he agrees with our emphasis on paying down the debt. To me this is one of the more important things that we have done as Conservatives. That is something that helps everyone. If we do not pay down our debt, we will continue to have huge interest payments which do not allow us to have the tax reductions that we should have.
    Tax reduction can happen when government spends less. When we have a huge debt hanging over our shoulders, we cannot put in place that tax reduction. Does he agree that paying down the debt should be a priority for us as a government?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree that paying down the debt that was left over from the Conservatives is a priority. We did that when we were in government. We fixed the $41 billion mess that was left by Brian Mulroney and the Conservative Party.
    In Nova Scotia the provincial Liberals inherited a $671 million debt in the same year. That was a provincial Conservative debt from John Buchanan.
    Yes, I agree with the member that the Conservatives left a mess. I agree that it has to be paid off. His government took out the fiscal prudence that the member for LaSalle—Émard and the member for Wascana always put in so that we had something to pay down the debt with.
    I would say that at a time when there is the possibility of a recession and difficult economic times, we need support for the manufacturing, forestry and other industries. I do not know that $10 billion is an appropriate amount. I think we need to have a discussion about that.
    Not all Canadians benefit from lower taxes. The poorest of the poor who live on the street do not pay any tax. Those guys on the other side of the House think the GST helps everybody. They do not understand and they do not care that there are people who make no money whatsoever. We as a government and as a nation owe them something, unless we do not think that they are worthy of our help or they are below us somehow. That is not the case.
    The Liberals believe in paying down debt. We did it. We believe in reducing taxes. We did it. We also believe in taking care of Canadians who need our help.


    Mr. Speaker, I am sitting right beside my colleague and I guess we could have a conversation between us. However, for the record, I would like to say that the hon. member mentioned that he is not a doctor nor an economist. I think he should receive an honorary doctorate in economics for the speech he gave.
    Mr. Speaker, I accept.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like the hon. member to comment on a couple of ideas.
    We hear a lot from the party opposite that we have to be disciplined and take the long view. As a matter of fact, the hon. member who got up a few minutes ago said that if we do not pay down the debt at an accelerated pace, we will be hurting future generations.
    I think it is a question of balance. We pay down the debt, but we do not slash and burn in the short term simply for ideological reasons.
    The party opposite always talks about taking the long view. However, when we look at their policies they are all short term policies that are targeted for short term political purposes and goals. We still do not have a science and technology policy. This is something that we need to build in Canada for the long term.
    We do not have a national water policy which is something that we need to protect our economic growth in the long term.
    Literacy is very important, especially in a high tech economy. Literacy is very important for long term prosperity. The government slashed literacy. Then we also saw the largest spending budget in Canadian history.
    Where is the long term view in the government's approach? Does the government care about the economy, or does it only care about politics?
    Mr. Speaker, that is a powerful question. I must agree with my colleague on those things.
    One of the funniest things I saw recently was the Prime Minister speaking to his caucus before the House came back saying, “If things are going to get tough, do you want to trust the Liberals?” Mr. Speaker, I know you are impartial and cannot laugh when you hear that, but the millions of Canadians who are watching us now are saying, “Wait a second, the Conservatives left us a $41 billion annual deficit and a $500 billion debt. The Liberals fixed it up, invested in the priorities of Canadians and gave the Conservatives a $13 billion annual surplus. The Conservatives are the ones who cannot run an economy to save their lives. They give money away but not to the people who need it”.
    That is a group of people over there who love power but hate government. Government can be a source of good things. We can reduce taxes. We can pay off debt. We can provide better services to Canadians. The Liberals can do it; the Conservatives cannot.
    Mr. Speaker, the hon. member spoke about students quite a bit. He highlighted that there are two recommendations in the report we all agreed on, that we provide need and merit based support for students at post-secondary institutions and that the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation look for continued support.
    However, I looked in the Liberal supplementary report and in its four pages there is absolutely no discussion of students or young people. There is no discussion about the four or five items that he did not like and which he highlighted at the end of his speech.
    The member must be awfully disappointed in the finance people in the Liberal caucus who did not mention in this report any of the areas that he talked about in his speech today.
    Why did the member's own caucus not deal with the issues that he brought up today?
    Mr. Speaker, Liberals across the country certainly are leading Liberals. The Leader of the Liberal Party, the member for Markham—Unionville and others have spoken across the country on the need for investments in post-secondary education.
    We do not even need words. We need only look at actions. I could photocopy the economic update document and send it to my friend from Burlington. He may not have seen this because this was before he was elected. In the economic update that I talked about, there are billions of dollars in direct investments for students. The Liberal Party knows and understands the needs of students in Canada. We stand with them on those needs.
    I can say that when we go to the people in the next election, we will be talking about education, post-secondary education, universities, community colleges, skills upgrading, training, apprenticeship and lifelong learning, because those are the things that the Liberals stand for. Those are the things that the Liberals stood for. Those are the things the Liberals did something about when we fixed up the Conservative mess in this nation. It is what we are going to do when we fix up the mess when we take over again.


    Mr. Speaker, I have to put a correction on the record. When the hon. member says that debt reduction does not help everyone, especially poor people, he is dead wrong. When taxes are reduced, and that can only be done if the amount of money that government spends is reduced, it helps everyone. Every product that we buy has taxes built into it. It is not just the GST that is tacked on to it. Businesses are taxed, everybody is taxed and that is built into the product that is being sold. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that.
    I have a quick question for the member. He is from a rural--
    I am afraid I will not be able to allow the member to finish his question because there are only about 20 seconds left for the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour to respond to the comment.
    Mr. Speaker, I want to correct the correction. I did not say that debt reduction does not help all Canadians. I said tax reductions do not help all Canadians. Not all Canadians actually pay taxes.
    Tax reduction is good, but there are other ways to help people than reducing taxes. Direct subsidies to people who need help could be increased. Investments could be made in homelessness, literacy, education and all the things the Conservatives do not believe in.
    Mr. Speaker, I am honoured today to share my time with the member for Winnipeg South.
    Today it is my great honour to speak about what our government is doing regarding the budget consultations. Right now in Canada we are among the strongest G-7 economies and the only G-7 member with both an ongoing budget surplus and a falling debt burden. That is remarkable.
    Canada is also an emerging energy superpower. We are among the world leaders in clean hydroelectric power and natural gas production. We have one of the strongest and largest global oil reserves.
    Nevertheless, we are also taking aggressive action to manage economic uncertainty. We are making broad long term tax reductions which impact on the Canadian public throughout our nation. We are reducing record amounts of debt, and we are spending responsibly and efficiently.
    Canada cannot be immune from uncertainty in the U.S. nor immune from the global economy as a whole. Canada is working from a position of strength. Our economic fundamentals are solid.
    We are experiencing the second longest period of economic expansion in our history. Inflation is remaining low and stable. We have the best job market in a generation. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in 33 years. Canada is one of the few countries with a financially sustainable public pension system and that benefits many of our residents and our seniors.
    While we have seen job gains in other well paying sectors, manufacturing job losses are a real concern to our government. That is why we have introduced a billion dollar community development trust to help workers and communities facing major downturns.
    That is why we have put $8 billion in tax relief for manufacturers to help create the right economic climate for job creation.
    We believe that paying down our national debt is important for Canadians. It is important for our economy. It is also important for the future generations of Canadians who should not be burdened with the debt we have accumulated.
    In less than two years, our government has reduced the federal debt by nearly $37 billion including $10 billion in this fiscal year and at least $3 billion each year after that. This means the federal debt burden on every Canadian man, woman and child is lowered by about $1,570 or about $1.5 billion a month. That brings the balance of our federal debt to $467.3 billion from its peak of $562.9 billion in 1996-97. That is a reduction of over $95 billion. That is remarkable.
    In 2006-07 the government spent 14.4¢ of every revenue dollar on interest on the public debt, down from the peak of 37.6¢ in 1990-91. We intend to continue along this track. At this rate the federal debt will fall below 25% of our GDP by 2011-12, three years ahead of the original target date, marking the lowest debt burden since the early 1980s.
    This is important to our small businesses. Yesterday I met with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses which is very supportive of the tax cuts that the government has made. The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses has over 100,000 members throughout our nation. In one of its surveys of its members it asked this question: In what proportion should future federal surpluses be applied? The responses were as follows: 48% said pay down the federal debt; 36% said reduce taxes; and 16% said increase program spending.
    As we can see, small businesses across our nation feel that the main priority is to pay down our debt and reduce taxes. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do in order to support all Canadians.
    With the $60 billion of cuts announced in our fall economic statement, including another one percentage point reduction in the GST, the total actions taken by the government to date are approaching $200 billion in tax cuts over this year and the next five years.


    Close to 75% of the tax relief offered by the government benefits individual Canadians and their families. That is how it impacts on our population today: a reduction in the lowest personal rate, from 15.5% to 15%; an increase in the basic personal amount, to $9,600 for 2008 and to $10,100 for 2009; a working income tax benefit was put in place to help low-income Canadians over the welfare wall; a registered disability savings plan was put in place to assist parents of persons with disabilities with the tools to provide financial security for their loved ones when they can no longer care for them; and also a child tax credit providing up to $300 of tax relief for each child under 18 years of age.
    For the first time ever, we are providing pension income splitting for all seniors and pensioners. We also eliminated the capital gains taxation on gifts of listed securities to private foundations.
    By reducing the GST by another percentage point, our government has fulfilled a key campaign commitment and kept its word to Canadians, to our voters. Reducing the GST from 6% to 5% builds on the initial GST cut introduced in budget 2006. For consumers, the total savings from the two percentage point reduction will amount to approximately $12 billion.
    In another survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, members were asked to rate the priority of reduction of taxes by the federal government. Here, 39.1% placed a high priority on reducing the GST and 39.9% placed a medium priority on reducing the GST. So we can see, overall, it was a very high priority for the sample. We are listening to small business.
    Today, Canadians are already benefiting from one new tax cut, thanks to the Conservative government's second GST cut in as many years.
    In the weeks ahead, Canadian families can look forward to even more tax relief as the Conservative government's retroactive income tax reductions also take effect. Our Prime Minister has cut income taxes retroactively. As a result, Canadians families will have a smaller tax bill for the 2007 year. I know all of us are looking forward to that. Effective January 1, 2007, the lowest personal income tax rate will be reduced to 15% from 15.5%.
    In addition, the amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax will be increased to $9,600 for 2007 and 2008, and to $10,100 for 2009, as I said before.
    Together, these two measures will reduce personal income taxes for 2007 by almost $225 for a single worker earning $40,000. A two-income family that earns $80,000 will save more than $400 on their 2007 tax bill. That is significant.
    Thanks to the leadership of our Prime Minister, Canadian families will have more money refunded for last year, more money this year, and more money for the years to come. That is money into the pockets of everyday Canadians, where it counts.
    While the Leader of the Opposition spends his time musing about the kinds of higher taxes he wants to impose, our Prime Minister continues to show real leadership by lowering taxes and allowing hard-working Canadian families to keep more of what they earn.
    Something that I am personally very excited about is the taxpayer bill of rights that our government introduced last year. It was very pleasing to stand with the minister and be there when she announced this taxpayer bill of rights. This is a historical document that will benefit all Canadians, including those in my riding of Kildonan—St. Paul.
     We believe that our tax collection system can be more accountable and more user friendly for the public. The public need not be fearful of dealing with the Canada Revenue Agency to meet its tax obligations.
    There are 15 points. I know I am running out of time and cannot go over all 15 points. However, the taxpayer bill of rights was a groundbreaking initiative that our government put forward.
    In closing, these significant steps will help Canada remain well positioned to face any volatile environment. The opposition consistently criticized and opposed these vital measures, offering nothing as an alternative but costly band-aid solutions with no long term vision, threatening to return Canada to a deficit. Approaching budget 2008, we will continue to act in a stable and responsible manner.


    Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to my colleague's comments on the government's financial pathway. She talked about a bill of rights for taxpayers. I recently visited a housing project in my riding and met with some people who are doing their best with very little. It is not far from here, Mr. Speaker, and if you have the time I would love to take you there. The people in that housing project are deeply concerned about the government's priorities.
    In particular, the six women I talked to all have families. Some of them are living in one bedroom apartments, five or six people living together as a family. They are paying 90% of their income on rent. This government has done absolutely nothing for them. They cannot eat the taxpayer bill of rights. It will not pay the rent and what is abhorrent is that most of the people I was talking to were actually newcomers. Two of them were from Afghanistan. They are living in abhorrent conditions here in Canada.
    Their question to me, that I will pose to the member is: what is the government doing for them?
    Mr. Speaker, clearly, the $100 that is given to families across Canada is a really concrete benefit to all families, no matter what the income level is. It really helps support the food on the table, the child care, the kinds of things that are needed on an every day basis.
    Our government now has put more money than ever before into homelessness, with transfer payments to the provinces on the issue of affordable housing. I know in Winnipeg I have made no less than four announcements for people who are in low income housing. I know the people with whom I talked to there were appreciative of the kind of finances that the government had put into affordable housing in my province of Manitoba.
    I think that our government has placed a priority on families.


    Mr. Speaker, one of the items that I have been pushing for a long time is an increase in the northern residence tax deduction. People in the north face higher expenses so there is a tax deduction for them. It has not changed in some time.
    As the critic for the north, I have heard that people from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut would like that as well. I wonder if the member would support me in getting some increase to the tax deduction.
    Mr. Speaker, the north is a very special place. I have flown up to the north on several occasions and have been just awe struck by the potential that is there and the development that is going on in our Canadian north.
    Having said that, I know there are challenges in terms of increased expenses for basic things like housing, food and even transportation. The good thing about the House of Commons is that we can sit on committee and we can all put forth our suggestions and work together to ensure that these inadequacies that we do find in our population can be addressed. I would certainly stand with the member in this area.
    Mr. Speaker, we all know that the NDP has never seen a surplus that it would not love to spend. The Liberals have never seen a surplus that they have not spent. The member commented on a taxpayers bill of rights. With a taxpayers bill of rights, if we had that back in the days of former Prime Minister Trudeau, in her opinion, would we maybe not have a deficit today? Could the member comment on that?
    Mr. Speaker, the former government had 13 years to solve this problem. In just the two short years that our present government has been in power, we clearly have addressed Canadians' concerns. Whether it is in cutting taxes or with the taxpayers' bill of rights, we have tried to fill in the gaps. We will continue to do more very quickly.
    Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak in relation to this prebudget consultation debate. It is unfortunate, though, that I have to follow the member for Kildonan—St. Paul, because she has so completely captured our government's position that it is difficult to add to what she said. If I were a lawyer, I would say the case is closed, but thankfully I am not a lawyer.
    However, I will try to expand a bit on what she has said and focus some of my statements on the tax cuts of which she spoke. Now more than ever, I think, we are realizing that with the softness in markets south of the border and abroad, it is essential that we as a government prepare our country to be able to withstand any changes south of the border, to continue the substantive economic growth we have seen, and to maintain the incredible growth in jobs over the last number of years.
    Thankfully, we have a Prime Minister and a Minister of Finance who have been able to see this for some time and who have had the vision to bring in some of the most historic tax cuts in our nation's history. There have been some 60 tax cuts since our government took office 21 months ago. As I think back to January 23, 2006, it has been only two years, but the amount that has been accomplished is really quite incredible, especially in relation to the previous government.
     It is as if we came to office understanding the situation the country was in and realizing that it was time to give back to all the hard-working, taxpaying Canadians and the businesses that have built our country and maintained such an incredible economy. That is exactly what we have done. We have given tax relief in the realm of $190 billion, not only this year but over the next five years. As well, in the previous economic statement in October, we added an additional $60 billion in broad tax cuts, including a further reduction in the GST.
    We often hear the opposition complain about the GST cut. In the past, we have heard that complaint many times from the Liberals. In fact, in 1993 the Liberals won an election based on the promise of getting rid of the GST, but of course that got tossed the day after the election. They actually utilized the revenue from the GST for a number of years. There is no question about it: they had no intention of ever keeping that promise.
    As a government, we felt it was the right time to bring that tax down. We committed in the last election campaign to reduce it from 7% to 6% to 5%. We promised to do that in five years, but as everyone knows, as Conservatives we like to take the initiative and get the job done, so we actually achieved that promise in less than five years.
     In fact, it took us under two years in office to accomplish that reduction. The opposition parties, and specifically the Liberals, have complained quite loudly about this reduction, but when we think about the GST reduction and the timing that is now in effect, we are seeing it come in at a moment in Canada when it is actually needed quite considerably with our dollar where it is.
    Our dollar, being affected by international markets and the strength of the Canadian economy, has risen quite dramatically, to the point where it actually broke the $1 mark in U.S. dollars. That was somewhat unexpected and has really put some pressure on Canadian consumer prices. There has been a lot of interest by consumers in reductions in the prices that they see relative to other markets.
    Therefore, bringing in the GST cuts is one thing the government can do to assist our business community and our retailers in dealing with what many see as a challenging situation with our dollar. Thankfully, the dollar has moved back from its high mark of $1.10, and we hope we will be able to continue to work our way through this time of parity.


    The GST cut has definitely helped the auto sector, which has had considerable pressure placed upon it over a number of years, in that it has seen both growth and decline. A GST reduction such as the one we have put into place has really aided the auto sector in being able to offer prices at a much reduced rate. I know that members opposite complain about and scoff at a $600 saving on a vehicle, but $600 is a lot of money where I come from. Maybe at their country clubs they can light their cigars with those six $100 bills, but back where I am from, that is a lot of money.
    Of course, the purchasing power of consumers is going up. That is an important thing to remember, because Canadians want to take more of that pay home and they deserve to take more of that pay home. I am someone who believes in having more money in the taxpayer's pocket and not in funding every government program that the Liberals, NDP and Bloc want brought in.
    There is a time for government intervention and there is a time when government needs to back down. When the fiscal capacity of government is removed by returning it to the people, where it actually rightfully belongs, it becomes a more conservative environment so that government is able to look at all of its spending programs under a conservative lens.
    Thankfully, that is what this Prime Minister has been able to accomplish with the changes he has brought in, and we actually are seeing considerable benefit in our economy. Out in Manitoba, where I am from, we are seeing a fantastic situation because of the fact that we have seen a real retooling of the fiscal imbalance in our country. It was something that our party campaigned on. We campaigned on changing our equalization program to better suit Canada and, in reality, to bring it back to its original form.
    Unfortunately, the previous Liberal government dealt with it in a way that became very political. It was utilizing federal fiscal capacity to begin intervening in the territory and the jurisdiction of the provinces. Perhaps the Liberals felt that it was a successful political methodology to utilize, and maybe they were right in some situations, but in terms of actually keeping the federal government in the jurisdiction in which it belongs, it was the wrong choice.
    Now we can look at provinces such as Manitoba, which under this new formula is receiving $1 billion more than it did. That is allowing the province to actually start working in the areas that are in its jurisdiction, such as post-secondary education, health and child care. These are the areas that Manitoba can now focus on, instead of having the federal government trying to come up with some half-baked scheme, such as we saw under the former administration, with plans that could not possibly work and could not possibly be funded but were built only as an electoral scheme to draw votes.
    Of course, we are seeing this country emerge as an energy superpower that is second only to Saudi Arabia. Canada has been able to utilize its natural resources, including its petroleum supplies, thus allowing our country to continue our stellar economic growth pattern.
    This does not mean that we cannot continue with our other economic and energy strategies. Too often, we forget that Manitoba is one of the largest exporters of green energy. Manitoba's hydroelectric capacity is practically the largest in North America. It is something that is under-reported, so I have to incorporate it into my speech now, if members will indulge me.
    I have spoken about the debt reduction, which is at about $10 billion over this year alone and at $27 billion since we came into office. That is the equivalent of $1,570 for each man, woman and child.


    This is going to be a legacy for our children and for the individuals who will come after us so that they will have the capacity to be able to continue building this country in the future and to continue to make it the greatest place on earth to live. I know that as I look back on the time that I have spent in the House of Commons I will realize that with the leadership that we have had from the Prime Minister we have done exactly that. We have left an excellent legacy for our constituents.


    Mr. Speaker, I listened to most of the speech by my colleague opposite.
    We are at the prebudget consultation stage. The member who just spoke in the House and who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development must be starting to anticipate my question. It is incredible. We have the founding peoples of this country, the people who were there before us and they are the aboriginal peoples. I did not see anything in the prebudget consultations about what the government would like to see done or what investments it could make to help aboriginal populations. I do not want to discuss last year and I hope that my colleague will not start in again about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
    I have a very specific question. Would it not make more sense to consider investing even more, particularly in housing. There is an urgent need for it in aboriginal communities. In view of the $4 billion profit of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, would it not make sense, in the next budget, for a portion of the CMHC surplus to be spent on building or upgrading residences in aboriginal communities?


    Mr. Speaker, there is no question about our commitment to assisting aboriginal people in being able to achieve housing capacity in their home communities, but going even further than that, I believe that what we are attempting to do is actually provide first nations peoples, specifically those on reserve, with the opportunity to own their own homes.
    I was very fortunate to be part of an earlier announcement in the spring. A young first nation lady by the name of Alisha Bigelow was the first recipient of a program in Manitoba that assists first nations people in being able to come up with the down payment. We have seen among first nations peoples that it has been challenging to buy that first home. The most challenging part has been coming up with the down payment.
    It was really exciting for me to be a part of this announcement that there is now government assistance for first nations people in buying a home and getting a mortgage. We assist them by helping them with the down payment. This is essential because it is actually a change in direction. Allowing people on first nations reserves to actually own their own homes is a departure from the past.


    Mr. Speaker, while my colleague made an excellent presentation today, being that he is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs, I have a question. As a member of the committee, I do not recall us ever debating a recommendation on moneys for Indian Affairs, but I see that the Liberal supplementary report is now saying that the government should implement the 2005 Kelowna accord as agreed to by the premiers of the provinces. I think the Liberal critic made a presentation today to the press.
     There was no debate on this item. Could my hon. colleague tell us what is the danger of having this included in this document and why it is irresponsible?
    Mr. Speaker, I actually have no surprise at hearing what the member has mentioned, in part because this is how the entire Kelowna concept first came about. It was rushed and last moment, previous to an election call.
     It was from a government which knew that it had accomplished nothing in relation to aboriginal peoples over its entire tenure. It had to rush out this very ill-conceived press release at the last moment. The Liberals often speak about it as something that was an accord. Of course I know that accords are signed. There was actually no agreement as to how those proposed dollars would be spent among first nations leaders, but of course everyone knew that it was right before an election. It has received that type of stature, but it unfortunately is only a shameless attempt at trying to establish some degree of credibility on the file.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the very effective member for Trois-Rivières.
    On the occasion of this debate on the prebudget consultations, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois position is the result of consultation. The Bloc Québécois consulted people in the various ridings it represents. Since most of the ridings in Quebec are represented by Bloc members, we believe we represent the opinion of most Quebeckers. We consulted businesses as well as socio-economic and community groups.
    People were unanimous in saying that the government must put money into helping companies and individuals by using the portion of the surplus that is available to invest. However, the government will have to invest heavily in Quebec's priorities in the upcoming budget.
    We announced certain conditions pertaining to certain key sectors. It is important that the budget respond to calls from Quebeckers and the Bloc Québécois by providing $1 billion in aid for the forestry industry and not aid shared by the forestry and manufacturing industries. The budget must provide $1.5 billion to help manufacturers purchase more productive and efficient equipment, which will boost productivity.
    Another important area is transfers to municipalities. Municipalities have an urgent need for assistance to renovate municipal infrastructure.
    Creation of an independent employment insurance fund is another priority. The Bloc Québécois has been suggesting this for quite some time. Successive governments have paid down Canada's debt out of funds generated by workers, whose contributions make up the bulk of the fund. When the government takes this money, which belongs to workers, and uses it to pay down the debt, these workers are entitled to expect much better and much more respect from their government.
    The government also needs to set up an income support program for older workers. The Conservative Party made this promise during the last election campaign. To date, there has been no indication that the Conservatives intend to keep their promise. Yet they made a very firm commitment. Once again, workers and seniors are being shortchanged by the government.
    There is also the issue of funding for social housing. Each year, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation generates a surplus of several billion dollars. It is important for the government to come up with a strategy for reinvesting in social housing.
    I would like to talk a bit more about the sectors I mentioned. With respect to help for the manufacturing sector, the Bloc Québécois, through its participation in the Standing Committee on Finance, generally approves of the direction that the committee proposed. Several measures proposed by the Bloc Québécois were accepted by the committee, but others were rejected, even though some of them were essential. Among those accepted by the Standing Committee on Finance, which means that they were accepted by Liberal, Conservative, New Democrat and Bloc members, are some important measures worth highlighting.
    The Bloc believes that the government should not stall in following up on some of the proposed measures because even Conservative members of the committee agreed to them. The committee recommended that the government allocate $1 billion to the forestry sector. I think the government should act on this measure. One billion dollars for the forestry sector alone.
    Earlier, I said that the trust that was announced and voted on this week was for $1 billion to be divided between the manufacturing and forestry sectors. It is important to point out that difference. There are a lot of similarities between the two sectors.


    Quebec's forestry sector is in such a state of crisis that it requires special consideration. The Standing Committee on Finance agreed to that and recommended it.
    The committee also recommended that $1.5 billion be redistributed to manufacturing industries through tax refunds and tax credits so that these industries can buy new equipment and become more productive. If we want these companies to compete in the global market, we have to help them prepare for it.
    All members of the Standing Committee on Finance agreed to that measure, and they also suggested that the federal excise tax transfer be raised to 5¢ to help municipalities become more competitive. The committee also recommended that this measure come into force not in 2010, but right now. This is an important element that the Standing Committee on Finance approved of and recommended to the government in its prebudget report.
    With respect to the employment insurance fund surplus, the Bloc Québécois finds it unfortunate that an independent fund cannot be created to help cushion the blow for workers who lose their jobs temporarily or, sometimes, indefinitely. That money should go back to the workers who paid into the fund before it goes anywhere else.
    Another important element has to do with the dignity of seniors. Earlier I mentioned the Conservatives' promise during the last election campaign to make the guaranteed income supplement for seniors fully retroactive. The government did not get it done. It did not agree and it broke its promise to seniors. The Bloc Québécois is very disappointed that the Standing Committee on Finance did not agree with this measure. This is a real shame for seniors; we owe them a lot. These people often live below the poverty line. The government and society are indebted to them, and we should respect that.
    The fiscal imbalance is also important. It really must be settled. We called for $3.5 billion for post-secondary education funding, because it has been cut in recent years. It is vital that we get the funding we used to get if Quebec is to move forward and to properly educate all the students under its jurisdiction.
    In terms of social housing and the status of women, the Standing Committee on Finance, once again on the Bloc's initiative, agreed to have the government use some surpluses from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to invest in social housing.
    By acting on this very interesting report we can give back to a number of people, including aboriginals, so that they can once again live with much more dignity. The CMHC must dip into its surplus to provide money for social housing and to create an improved program, so there is more adequate social housing throughout Quebec.
    Obviously, in its supplementary report, the Bloc Québécois was also severely critical of the ideological cuts made in recent years to status of women programs and to the court challenges program. The Bloc recommended that these measures be reinstated, but the committee did not agree. It is a terrible shame, and that is why we included this recommendation in our supplementary report.
    I would like to conclude with the issue of funding for culture, where there is a huge lack of money. Over the past two years, we have not felt that the government was committed towards developing culture.


    We have five minutes left for questions and comments. We will come back to that when debate resumes, after oral question period.


[Statements by Members]


Youth Exchange Programs

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw attention to the great benefit that government supported education programs provide to our youth.
    Last May, students from my riding had the opportunity to participate in an exchange to Ontario through SEVEC, an organization supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage.
    Youth exchange programs funded by our government allow young Canadians to explore other traditions, share new ideas and broaden their appreciation for our country's great diversity.
    Programs for youth on Parliament Hill, such as the page program and internship programs, allow students to get a first-hand look at how Parliament works.
    I am delighted that youth in my riding are taking advantage of the many educational programs offered by our government and I hope that they take what they learn from their experiences out with them into the world and use it to make Canada an even better place.

Reginald Gulliford

    Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute and honour a truly heroic person, Sergeant Reginald Gulliford from Buchans, Newfoundland and Labrador.
    Early in his career, he was stationed in Manitoba. In 1986, Reg and his partner, Constable Thomas, were at a gas station to assist an individual when that person fired on them killing Constable Thomas and striking Constable Gulliford with three bullets.
    However, Reg was never the type of person to give up. He survived. He underwent 29 operations and by September 1987 he was back on his feet. Incredibly, he returned to work with the RCMP in St. John's the following January.
    Recently, at the age of 46, Sergeant Reg Gulliford passed away after battling with cancer. As always, Reg faced this terrible disease with strength of character and always a positive approach.
    Yesterday, I spoke to Reg's mother, Bernice , who lives in Buchans. She was very proud of her son and misses him very much. He was a great son and, like his colleagues, he was a proud member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and truly a great Canadian hero.



Teachers' Week

    Mr. Speaker, this is Teachers' Week, and I would like to thank and pay tribute to those whose energy, dedication and perseverance is key to the education of our future citizens.
    Teachers are precious. Their understanding, commitment and competence help prepare students for future challenges. Every day, these educational professionals have a positive impact on the daily lives of our children. In recognition of just how much work teachers do and to pay them proper tribute, the Commission scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles in my riding launched a contest called “My Teacher” for the second year in a row. What a great initiative.
    On behalf of my Bloc Québécois colleagues, I would like to salute all our teaching professionals, who really care about the progress of Quebec society, and congratulate the school board on this wonderful initiative.


Aboriginal Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, at a recent meeting with the Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation and the lieutenant governor of B.C., Chief Mike Maquinna addressed His Honour Steven Point on the present situation of his people.
    He recalled the history of generosity that his people have exhibited since that first meeting in 1792 when Captain Vancouver sailed into Friendly Cove and made contact with the ancestors of today's residents of Tsaxana. That generosity was once against demonstrated in the festivities of the day.
    It had not escaped their attention that many of the visitors had stayed and made great fortunes from their land. The same could not be said for his people. He expressed their collective hopes that, in light of the B.C. 2010 Olympics and in just plain return of favour, it would be appreciated if the Mowachaht/Muchalaht could share in the wealth.
    The chief asked representatives from government who had been invited to bear witness to their meeting to carry this message to their parliaments. I am privileged today to do that.
    The Canadian government must start treating the Mowachaht/Muchalaht and all first nations in this country with a lot more respect and allow them to participate in Canada's wealth.

Child Care

    Mr. Speaker, once again, NDP members are refusing to debate their own child care proposals. Why do they not want to discuss their plan for Canada's children in this House? Have they finally realized how offensive and unworkable their bill really is?
    The opposition wants to take away the universal child care benefit from families and, instead, create additional government bureaucracy to establish a network of government run day care centres.
    That is offensive to the thousands of private day care operators and others who provide excellent child care across the country. It is incredibly offensive to the relatives, grandparents and parents of children who choose to provide care in their own homes. It is offensive to the provinces, all of which object to using taxpayer dollars to create additional bureaucracy rather than new child care spaces.
    We will not permit the opposition to sacrifice the well-being of our children to the self-serving interests of its friends nor to its insulting belief that without government direction parents cannot choose what is right for their children.

East Coast Music Awards

    Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the East Coast Music Awards will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend in Fredericton.
    The ECMA showcases and honours the many professionals dedicated to the promotion of east coast music. Thanks to the organizers and many volunteers, ECMA events will take over the city from today until Sunday.
    I wish all the nominees good luck, including Fredericton's own Thom Swift, Ross Nielsen, Richard Paul, Evangeline Inman, the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, The Fredericton Playhouse, Dolan's Pub, Kyle Cunjak Photography and CFXY 105.3 The Fox.
    Denise and I will be celebrating Noah's second birthday by attending the ECMAs, and I urge everyone to come out or tune in for the stellar lineup of east coast artists who will be celebrated this weekend in Fredericton.



Agriculture and Agri-Food

    Mr. Speaker, one thing is clear: the Bloc is doing nothing to help our dairy farmers. It has nothing to offer.
    However, at noon, the Secretary of State (Agriculture) and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food spoke at the Dairy Farmers of Canada conference. They reiterated the firm stand taken by the Conservative government in support of supply management at the WTO.
    They also pointed out the government's positive actions, particularly in establishing cheese composition standards. And if this were not enough, at noon, the minister announced special safeguard measures.
    I am proud of Quebec members' efforts on behalf of Quebec farmers and dairy producers and I am proud that our Conservative government takes action and defends so vigorously the interests of our dairy producers and farmers.

International Development Week

    Mr. Speaker, during International Development Week from February 3 to 9, 2008, the City of Ottawa is hosting a meeting of the Advisory Group on CSOs and Aid Effectiveness. Several NGOs there are calling for an end to a model that does not target poverty reduction and excludes civil society.
    Excluding NGOs makes no sense, since those organizations have in-depth knowledge of local realities and generally have strong roots in the communities receiving assistance. Involving them directly in development programs helps reinforce democracy and promote savings in societies that are often marginalized.
    It is time to speak out about the fact that Canada is still far from reaching the development assistance target of 0.7% of GDP. There is room for improvement.


Tackling Violent Crime Act

    Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to keeping our communities and streets safe, which is why it is imperative that members on that side of the House come to their senses and do the right thing and pass the tackling violent crime act which imposes mandatory jail time for serious gun crimes, cracks down on drug and alcohol impaired driving, increases the age of protection for sexual activity from 14 to 16 years old and ensures that high risk and repeat offenders face tougher consequences when they are convicted.
    Our government is committed to keeping our promises and committed to passing Bill C-2. By stalling the passing of this bill in the unelected and unaccountable Liberal Senate, the Leader of the Opposition continues to put our communities and children at risk. Canadians demand more. They demand cooperation on a bill that affects the lives and well-being of all our loved ones.
    It is time that the opposition stopped playing its petty partisan games and work with us to better protect our children. It is time that the Liberal leader do just that: lead, follow or get out of the way.

Chinese New Year

    Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer warm greetings to Canadians across this country who are celebrating the Chinese New Year. I welcome everyone to the Year of the Rat.
    The Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, with festivities to ring in spring until the rising of the full moon. It includes customs that date back thousands of years.
    This celebration has become an important part of our cultural landscape. It should remind us that the Canada we now have today would not be the same without the role played by Chinese Canadians. This is a time for all Canadians to appreciate all that multiculturalism brings to this nation and to remember that our diversity is our strength.
    On behalf of the Liberal Party, I wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year and may the new year bring health and good fortune to all.

Tackling Violent Crime Act

    Mr. Speaker, it is increasingly apparent that the Liberals have been misleading Canadians regarding their stance on the tackling violent crime act.
    Let us consider the facts. Although they voted for the bill, some Liberals have talked openly about repealing sections of it if they return to power.
    At every opportunity, the unelected and unaccountable Liberal senators have obstructed initiatives to protect Canadian families, while waving politically motivated nonsense like Bill C-288 through in mere seconds.
    And now it seems just a matter of time until the Liberal Party forces an election, leaving this important bill to die in the Senate.
    There is a simple reason that getting tough on crime was prominent in both the Conservative election platform and in our Speech from the Throne: it matters to Canadian families.
    In a couple of minutes, the Liberal leader will stand up, cheered on by his team of Liberal lemmings. I hope he will use this opportunity to tell the House that in his long-awaited first act of leadership he is demanding that his unelected Liberal senators stop playing political games with the safety of Canadians.


Energy Security Initiative

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's misguided policy of selling out Canada's energy security through the North American energy security initiative, boldly promoted on the Prime Minister's own website, is being viewed as a total failure by all sectors of Canadian society.
    Business leaders, academics, labour leaders, respected energy experts, provincial governments and municipalities, the consensus is overwhelming that the Conservative government is on the wrong track. They all agree that we must develop a Canada first energy security strategy.
    Working Canadians cannot wait until all of our oil and natural gas is completely committed to the United States. We need to move now. We need leadership on how best to invest over the next 25 years in energy systems that will create a green and energy secure Canada.
    We need leadership to get Canadians to reduce their energy consumption. We need leadership to increase the use of renewable energy.
    That is a tall order, one the Conservative government is not up. The Conservatives would rather hide behind the false image of our energy superpower status.
    Working Canadians want a--
    The hon. member for Egmont.

Prince Edward Island

    Mr. Speaker, last week, Prince Edward Island dodged a bullet. Another hour of freezing rain would have catapulted the province into total disaster.
    The response to the crisis by Maritime Electric workers, who worked around the clock, the Red Cross and volunteer fire departments, mitigated a situation that could have been much worse. They have the gratitude of all Islanders.
    The P.E.I. ice storm showed the absolute necessity of having contingency plans to deal with natural disasters developed by people who know how to organize a proper response.
    Something governments could do for starters would be to implement a tax credit for people to purchase gas generators so households could at least function with heat and hot food.
    It is an expensive proposition to wire a home for a generator and purchase the machine. A tax credit would encourage this essential step.
    Again, our gratitude goes out to all the volunteers who helped to avert a major crisis on Prince Edward Island.


Aluminum Industry

    Mr. Speaker, on February 1, aluminum giants Chinalco and Alcoa acquired a 12% interest in the British group, Rio Tinto.
    Once again, uncertainty reigns in the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean region and in Quebec. Workers and the general public are worried that foreign companies will buy up our companies and our natural resources bit by bit without offering any guarantees with respect to processing or employment in the aluminum industry.
    Alcan's recent acquisition of Rio Tinto showed that we cannot count on the Conservatives to protect our assets or our jobs. This government's laissez-faire policy gives foreign companies free rein and asks nothing in return.
    With the entry of new players in Rio Tinto Alcan's operations, Quebec and my region will lose even more control over their own development. Quebeckers will not forget the role the Conservative government played by failing to take action.

International Humanitarian Assistance

    Mr. Speaker, Canada has an important responsibility to the poor of this world to whom it sends assistance. It has a responsibility to make sure that the aid it sends to international agencies will be distributed fairly and transparently, so that those who need it most can take full advantage of it.
    Bill C-293, which was adopted in this House by all the members except the Conservatives, has this very objective.
    However, since the bill was passed, it has been blocked in the Senate by the Conservative senators, who are engaging in an orgy of obstruction and disinformation. Yet this bill was supported by numerous petitions and demonstrations.
    Once again, the Conservatives are being hypocritical by talking about transparency and accountability but refusing to walk the talk. This shows a serious lack of leadership on an issue that affects millions of people and Canada's international reputation.
    The poor of this world deserve better from this government.



    Mr. Speaker, we see yet again more confusion and division on the part of the Liberal Party when it comes to our mission in Afghanistan.
    Yesterday, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party insisted that the Liberals want to stay in Afghanistan. He stated, “The party over there wants to pull out of Afghanistan, not this party”.
     Yet the leader of the Liberal Party wants to continue to stick to his line that Canadian soldiers should not be allowed to engage in a combat mission in Afghanistan, but only to do training. Of course, he has no problem with invading Pakistan.
    Perhaps the deputy leader of the Liberal Party could explain to his leader what the independent panel said on this kind of plan:
    One variant would have Canada end its combat mission completely in February 2009. This Panel did not judge this to be a viable option.
    The deputy leader of the Liberal Party said recently, “do it right or don't do it at all”. That is what he should tell his leader.


[Oral Questions]




     Mr. Speaker, last April, the House voted on a Liberal motion to affirm the end of our combat mission in February 2009 and immediately inform NATO of the need to find replacements for our troops.
    Unfortunately, the Prime Minister, supported by the leader of the NDP, rejected that motion. A full year after this huge mistake, will the Prime Minister realize that Canada, NATO and Afghanistan, all of these, would be in a much better position today if he had not wasted a full year?
    Mr. Speaker, as the Manley panel of independent experts said, the previous government chose Kandahar in 2005. We undertook important obligations to the Afghan people in Kandahar whom we are protecting, as well as to the broader international community.
     Obviously, we had an extension of the mission, voted on in Parliament, to February 2009. NATO is aware that is the case. NATO is also aware that this government is willing to extend that commitment if we can get certain conditions fulfilled by NATO countries.
    The choice for all parties in this House will be clear: to support the military mission or not to support it.


    Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister is now saying that the mission as originally conceived must change or be ended. If that is true today, it was true a year ago. He has not been doing his job for the past year. He did not inform NATO that we could not continue the mission as originally conceived. He made everyone—NATO, Afghanistan and Canada—waste a whole year.
    Will he admit that if he did so it was because ultimately what he is proposing is a never-ending mission?
    Mr. Speaker, NATO has been informed several times of the political situation in Canada, the fact that Parliament extended the mission until February 2009 and that the government has to make a decision after that.
    We accept the recommendations of the Manley panel, namely that we should extend our mission if NATO provides more troops and equipment.
     The choice for all parties in this House will be difficult but straightforward: support the military mission or oppose it.


    Mr. Speaker, Canadians deserve the truth from the Prime Minister. He must be honest about his plan for a never-ending mission. He should also end the mismanagement and confusion: ministers contradicting each other, ministers misleading the House.
    How can Canadians have any trust in the Prime Minister with his plan for a never-ending mission, a prime minister who controls everything but runs nothing?
    Mr. Speaker, the government established a panel of independent experts consisting of people from both partisan backgrounds, including and led by the former deputy prime minister of the Liberal Party.
    The recommendations of that panel, I think widely accepted, are very clear, that we have a choice. The choice is to do and in fact to strengthen the military mission, or to not do the military mission and to abandon those commitments. On that fundamental question, those two choices, Canadians deserve the truth from every political party.


    Mr. Speaker, as we go into a national debate about Afghanistan, the government owes Canadians a clear explanation of its position.
    The Prime Minister has said that he will not extend the mission unless he receives 1,000 additional troops from NATO.
    If this is the policy, the Prime Minister ought to answer three basic questions. Why did it take him so long to pick up the phone? What assurances can he give Canadians that they will actually find the troops in time? And most important of all, what evidence does he have that 1,000 will make any real difference?
    Mr. Speaker, once again, we have accepted the recommendations of an expert independent panel that on behalf of the government has consulted widely.
    In terms of the additional troops and equipment that the panel identified as necessary to training, to long term success and exit, we have discussed those recommendations with the chief of the defence staff and the military. They are in agreement with those recommendations.
    Once again, the question for every party in the House is, do they support the extension of the military mission, or do they not support it?


    Mr. Speaker, hiding behind the Manley report is not the answer. An additional 1,000 soldiers could turn into a simple political gesture or a symbolic presence, but our troops need help and reinforcements immediately.
    I will ask the question again. Where will these 1,000 soldiers come from and what exactly will they do to help us? Canadians need an honest answer from the Prime Minister. Does he have one?
    Mr. Speaker, the recommendations are quite simple: we need 1,000 NATO soldiers and some major equipment to help us in our military mission in Kandahar.
    This government is clear: we accept this recommendation. Without a response from NATO to these requests, Canada will not extend the mission in Afghanistan. We are nonetheless prepared to do so if NATO gives us the help we have asked for.

Manufacturing and Forestry Industries

    Mr. Speaker, in his desire for an election at all costs, the Prime Minister is putting his own partisan interests ahead of files that are much more important, including the crisis facing the manufacturing and forestry industries. By fueling election rumours over the past few days, the Prime Minister seems to want people to forget that his assistance plan is inadequate and that everyone is demanding improvements.
    Since the manufacturing and forestry industries are in full crisis, will the Prime Minister attend to the most urgent things first, in other words, improve his assistance plan?
    Mr. Speaker, we introduced an important plan for these industries throughout Canada. The community development trust is a plan that will help many industries in several provinces. It comes in addition to other measures taken by this government in various files, including the fall economic statement. As always, this government will continue to work to help and strengthen the Canadian economy.
    Mr. Speaker, with a $10.6 billion surplus for 2007-08, the Prime Minister easily has the means to improve his assistance plan, especially since Ontario and Quebec are particularly hard hit by the economic slowdown.
    Will the Prime Minister set aside his own partisan interests and focus on what matters: helping the workers, businesses and communities affected by the crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors?
    Mr. Speaker, with two budgets, two economic statements from the Minister of Finance and a softwood lumber agreement, this government is taking action to help the forestry sector and other sectors of our economy. In many such instances, our actions were supported by the Bloc. I hope the Bloc will continue to support the important measures that this government is prepared to implement for the Canadian economy.


    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance himself acknowledged yesterday that the economy is slowing down. However, he prefers to adopt a laissez-faire approach rather than being proactive and countering the effects of this downturn. In addition, he has announced in advance that there will be nothing in the budget to deal with the crisis.
    Now that the Minister of Finance has acknowledged that the economy is slowing, is it not his duty to use some of the current $10.6 billion surplus for additional measures which will immediately improve the assistance plan for the manufacturing and forestry sectors?
    Mr. Speaker, we are obviously in a period of prebudget debate in the House. In this debate, we have the opportunity to indicate what the government has done in the past two years, not only to make our economy competitive but also to ensure that our businesses and workers have the necessary tools to deal with a possible downturn. The commitment of $1 billion across Canada for the most vulnerable sectors is an initiative that deserves to be recognized.
    Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities may have “zero” to say but, as the zero expert, he has annually handed out over $900 million to oil companies. The minister gets a zero for that.
    Can this minister, who has sold out to the oil companies, tell us what he has done for the workers in Maniwaki and the Haute-Gatineau region, for example, where plants are closing? That is a big, fat zero.
    Mr. Speaker, in reality—since he is letting me repeat it—for 18 years the Bloc Québécois has done zero itself in terms of projects, bills, jobs created. I, at least, can proudly say this evening to the people in Maniwaki, in my riding, I can easily say that I delivered the goods.



    Mr. Speaker, when it comes to ensuring the health care for the hard-working families of this country, the fact is that the Prime Minister cannot be trusted.
    Here are the facts. Millions of families cannot find a doctor. Nursing shortages are reaching crisis levels in this country. Prescription drug costs are soaring and wait lists are growing for home care and long term care. Now we see privatization, making health care less affordable and available for Canadians across the country.
    If the Prime Minister promised to fix the health care problems that were left by the previous government, how come they are only getting worse?
    Mr. Speaker, I do not agree that the health care problems are getting worse, although I do agree that health care remains a major challenge for this country.
    That is why this government, led by the Minister of Health, has undertaken a number of important cooperative initiatives with the provinces to deal with the wait times problem.
    I can certainly say, as a private citizen, that my family and I have always depended on the public health care system. That is what I will be depending on the day I leave office. I can assure the hon. member, that is where my heart is and that is what we in the government will aim to make sure it works.


    Mr. Speaker, the government must show some leadership and not let the private sector control our health care system, as we are seeing in Ontario, Alberta and now in Montreal, with its private clinics.
    Within 10 years, the shortage of nurses will reach 113,000. We need 5,000 more family doctors in this country because 5 million people do not have their own family doctor.
    When will the health care crisis be taken seriously by this government? When will we start to see results?
    Mr. Speaker, the health care system is a very important issue to all Canadian families. That is why this government, led by the Minister of Health, is working in cooperation with the provinces—not against them—to better manage the system, to increase staff and to shorten waiting lists. We are starting to make progress.
    As I just said, in my private life, my family and I have always used the public health care system, and we believe in this system.




    Mr. Speaker, when Justice Mactavish dismissed today the injunction sought by Amnesty International and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association on the Afghan detainees transfer, she clearly stated that there are:
--very real concerns as to the effectiveness of the steps that have been taken thus far to ensure that detainees transferred by the Canadian Forces to the custody of Afghan authorities are not mistreated.
    Since torture is a serious issue in Afghan controlled prisons, will the government notify Parliament and Canadians before transfers are resumed?


    Mr. Speaker, I have already told the House and I am pleased to say it again for the hon. member: we signed an agreement last May, to improve the agreement signed by the previous Liberal government. This agreement is still in effect. The Canadian Forces have the discretion to enforce the agreement in the field.
    I can assure you that if ever cases of abuse or allegations of abuse are raised with our officials, they will contact the Afghan government directly to follow up on the allegations.
    Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the government is still shirking its responsibilities.
    Justice Mactavish also said:


    Furthermore, in the event that transfers do resume...we do not know what additional safeguards may be put into place to protect detainees while they are in the hands of the Afghan authorities.


    What will it take for this government to tell us the truth about this scandal that is marring our reputation on the world stage because of their insignificance, their incompetence and their dishonesty?
    Mr. Speaker, we want to have an open, clear and transparent debate on the future of the mission in Afghanistan. I would ask my hon. colleague to take part in this debate with us and to present constructive proposals to help Canada have a mission that responds to the concerns of our country and the Canadian Forces and to what the Afghan government and the international community are seeking.


Natural Resources

    Mr. Speaker, MDS Nordion testified in committee today that it informed senior natural resources officials of the shortage in nuclear isotopes. Guess when? It was on November 22.
    It conveyed a great sense of urgency and it warned of a global shortage of isotopes, yet the Minister of Natural Resources claims he did not know until December 3 and apparently he did not bother telling the Minister of Health until December 5.
    Why did the Minister of Natural Resources put Canadian lives at risk because of his incompetence?
    Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we have heard everything from all sides from Liberal opposition members. One week they are saying we did not act soon enough and on another week they are saying we should have acted sooner.
    That is not leadership. On this side of the House we recognized when we were properly informed that there would be a long shut down, that we had to act to protect the lives and safety of Canadians.
    We acted on this side of the House. On the other side of the House we had dodge, duck and deke. We have everything in dodge ball, but there is no leadership on that side. We have leadership on this side and we are proud of the decision we made.
    Mr. Speaker, the more that minister emphasizes the fiasco, the deeper the hole he digs for himself.
    We learned today that MDS Nordion knew on November 21. We know now that natural resources knew on November 22, but the minister claims he did not know until December 3.
    We also know that the nuclear medicine industry knew on November 27, yet the Minister of Health claims he did not know until December 5. Who is telling the truth? Exactly what level of incompetence is needed before one is kicked out of cabinet?
    I guess, Mr. Speaker, that this week the Liberal opposition question is: why did we not act sooner? Last week it was: why did we not act?
    The question is this. When is the opposition going to show leadership on that side of the House? One week it is, why do we not act and the next week it is simply, why do we not act sooner?
    The question is this. When are the Liberals going to show leadership so they can ensure the health and safety of Canadians? They never show leadership and that is the problem. That is why they will be in opposition for a long time to come.




    Mr. Speaker, yesterday, I asked a very straightforward question about how the army deals with Afghan detainees. Unluckily for me, I got an answer from the parliamentary secretary who gave me statistics on violent crimes committed in Canada. As we might say, what's that got to do with the price of fish?
    Rather than contribute to his government's culture of secrecy with meaningless answers, will the parliamentary secretary tell us what happens to those detainees? If they are not transferred, and there is no prison to put them in, what happens to them?
    Mr. Speaker, we have an agreement in place that allows us to transfer Afghan detainees. The agreement has been implemented in a theatre of military operations by our armed forces. That agreement is still in place and they may, at their discretion, transfer Afghan detainees. This agreement is an improvement over the previous Liberal government's agreement. We have an agreement that respects international standards. If ever a case of abuse is brought to our attention, we will discuss it with the Afghan authorities directly.
    Mr. Speaker, the minister just said that the armed forces have started transferring detainees again. Maybe he should get his story straight. First we were told that transfers have not been happening since November. Now we are being told that transfers are happening. That is the problem we have with this government: its lack of transparency. Its members systematically refuse to answer our questions.
    We would like the government to tell us the truth, once and for all. What are the armed forces doing with Afghan detainees? We demand clear answers on this issue.
    Mr. Speaker, we have an agreement in place that allows us to transfer Afghan prisoners. It is up to the armed forces on the ground to decide whether to implement that agreement.
    That being said, I am glad that the Bloc Québécois is asking questions, but I would like the party to ask questions about the future of our mission and to participate in an open debate about it here in the House.
    Why is the Bloc Québécois against letting Canadians have an open and transparent debate on the future of our mission in Afghanistan?

Election Returns

    Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives complain that the senators are blocking their legislative agenda. But since September 10, 2007, the members—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Michel Guimond: But since September 10, 2007, the Conservative members have been going for a Guinness record for useless reading by delaying the work of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, thus protecting their elected members and candidates whose election returns are being challenged by Elections Canada.
    We understand that the Prime Minister wants his members to practise to become senators, but can this behaviour, which has been going on for too long, be seen as an admission of guilt?
    Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the opposition parties, including the Bloc Québécois, do not want a balanced debate that would examine the activities of the Bloc Québécois and the Liberals. That is fair, that is equitable, and that is what we are asking for.
    Mr. Speaker, the only election returns that are being challenged are those of 67 Conservative candidates.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Mr. Michel Guimond: Elections Canada has issued reimbursements for all the other returns here in the House. We have nothing to be ashamed of. The questionable returns involve nine members from Quebec and three ministers seated in the front rows.
    Could it be that the Conservatives on the committee are trying to buy time so that they can do the same thing during the next election campaign?


    Mr. Speaker, if all the activities of the opposition parties are above board, then what are they hiding? What is the problem? They should support the motion calling for a review of all the activities of all parties.


    I have one example. The member for Beauséjour had an example of a grouped advertising buy. It was never revealed anywhere in his returns filed with Elections Canada, yet he got reimbursed. We agree. That does not seem fair. That does not seem equitable. That should be examined. All parties should be treated exactly the same way, so I will pass.


    Mr. Speaker, Fred Montaseri, a Canadian citizen, was fired because of George Bush's ITAR law. This law bans Canadian firms that employ Canadians from countries like Iran, China and Haiti. The British and Australian governments have negotiated ITAR exemptions for their countries.
    When will this Prime Minister defend multiculturalism and defend Canadian jobs? When will he stand up for Canada and stand up against George Bush's discriminatory ITAR law?
    Mr. Speaker, we are standing up for Canadians.


    We are standing up in French and English for Canadians.


     I am proud to be the foreign affairs minister. I am proud to work with the U.S. I am proud of what we are doing. What we do for the good of Canadians is always in the interests of Canadians.
    Mr. Speaker, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates pioneered and owns the Canadarm and RADARSAT technologies. MDA's space division is selling out to Americans partly because under George Bush's ITAR rules, the only way MDA can get more American contracts is to sell out to an American company. George Bush's ITAR law is hurting Canada's space industry. It is gutting Canada's economic and defence sovereignty.
    When will the Prime Minister stand up for Canada's national interests and secure ITAR exemptions?
    Mr. Speaker, the proposed acquisition of MDA by ATK is a difficult transaction that must be approached with caution. It is important that the facts be clear.
     First, the Minister of Industry, as the minister responsible for Investment Canada, is required to approve any such transaction under the net benefit test. To this point, no such transaction has been submitted to the minister and no approvals have been granted.
    In addition to that, as the minister responsible for the Canada Space Agency and the former Technology Partnership Canada program, a very significant number of assignment consents are required from myself, as Minister of Industry. None of those have been granted. I will be diligent in protecting the interests of taxpayers.


Government Contracts

    Mr. Speaker, all we hear from the Minister of Finance is, “Yes, I broke the rules, but it was worth it for taxpayers.”
    I therefore wrote to the Auditor General today to ask her if she thought this was the best use of taxpayers' dollars.
    In the meantime, did the minister hire Hugh MacPhie to work on the budget speech again this year? If so, did he break the rules again?


    Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear and consistent on this matter. Good value was provided for money in this contract. It was very legitimate work. Administrative functions were not followed, but the rules will be followed from here on out.


    Mr. Speaker, that is a useless answer. Could the Treasury Board president answer?
     It is his rule that the finance minister broke in handing out a $122,000 contract to a Conservative buddy. Why does he have no qualms in firing public servants for obeying the law, while saying and doing absolutely nothing when Canada's chief financial officer flagrantly breaks the law?
    Why does the government show no accountability, no transparency, no consequences when it comes to Conservative crime and Conservative ministers who break the law?
    Mr. Speaker, following on the theme of—
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. There seem to be a host of questions, but there is only one that is going to be answered. That was asked by the member for Markham—Unionville and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has been recognized by the Chair as the member who will reply to the question. He has the floor. We will have some order, please.
    Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to respond to a useless question, if that is his accusation.
    Let me repeat that we have been very clear and consistent on this matter. Good value for money was provided. There was a recognition that administrative functions were not followed. We have taken action to ensure this does not happen again.

International Aid

    Mr. Speaker, when it came to international aid, the Liberals talked the talk but they did not walk the walk. They hung out with rock stars and lectured the world, but they just did not get it done.
    The Prime Minister and the Minister of International Cooperation have set realistic and achievable goals to meet our commitment of doubling aid to Africa. The Prime Minister's announcement of $105 million for the Canadian-led initiative to save a million lives is just the first step.
    Could the Minister of International Cooperation tell us the latest steps this government is taking to meet her commitment?
    Mr. Speaker, I agree with my colleague. The government is getting things done. We will in fact meet our commitment of doubling aid to Africa this year.
    Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
    Order, please. The hon. Minister of International Cooperation has the floor. We will have some order. I remind hon. members today is Thursday. It is no longer Wednesday. The Minister of International Cooperation will have some order so I can hear her answer.
    Mr. Speaker, as I said, the government will meet its commitment to doubling aid to Africa this year. In fact, we have announced the initiative to save a million lives and $125 million to the World Food program to feed African school children.
    Earlier today, I announced almost $400 million to strengthen the economic growth, fight hunger and ensure basic service to Africans.
    I am proud to be part of a government that is delivering to Africa and getting things done.

Government Contracts

    Mr. Speaker, there is a clear rule at Treasury Board requiring multiple bids above $25,000. The Minister of Finance breached that rule. He gave a contract to one of his buddies for $122,000.
    It is a fundamental issue of public trust. In the last election the Conservatives, in the wake of Liberal scandal, promised even higher ethical standards. What we have is a Prime Minister who refuses to apply the rules. Does he realize that by putting themselves above the rule, the Conservatives are signalling to the public that the rules do not count when it comes to the government and they are breaching the trust?
    Once again, Mr. Speaker, I will remind all hon. members that in this contract we did receive good value for money. The contract was administratively not functioning. Administrative functions were not followed, but they will in the future.
    Let me talk a little about the legitimate work that was done in this contract. It is part of what brought us budget 2007, a document that resolved the fiscal imbalance that the Liberals left for 13 long years.



    Mr. Speaker, there are rules in place. They are clear. They were flouted by a minister.
    Instead of sending one of his backbenchers to protect him, why does the Prime Minister not have the courage to rise in this House and discipline his minister, who gave $122,000 to one of his buddies for a 20-page speech, a flagrant breach of the rules? Why are there no sanctions for these ministers, although they insist that the public obey the law?


    Mr. Speaker, once again, I will remind the hon. member of what I have answered many times before. Good value for money was provided. This good value went into budget 2007, a budget that resolved the fiscal imbalance in massive infrastructure funding like the country has never seen before. It is something the Liberals, by the way, voted against, as did the NDP.
    It is very surprising that they would go home to their constituents and admit that they did not vote for $33 billion in infrastructure spending.


    Mr. Speaker, behind the repackaged and rebranded Conservative Party, we see that it is nothing more than the old Reform-Alliance, trying to turn back the clock 50 years by voting unanimously in support of the death penalty yesterday.
    The Prime Minister said that the death penalty and the issue of abortion were “not issues for the first Conservative government”. Does yesterday's vote not prove beyond a doubt the Conservatives want to bring back the death penalty?
    Mr. Speaker, the member has it absolutely wrong. The government has no plans to change its policy and introduce any legislation in this area.


    Mr. Speaker, by voting yesterday on the death penalty, the Conservative government voted against Canadian legislation and policies, against the case law of the Supreme Court, against our international obligations and against victims of wrongful convictions.
    Why undermine the rule of law? Why scorn the rights of innocent people? Why support such a cruel and unusual punishment?


    Mr. Speaker, the member has it absolutely wrong. We respect the decisions and the directions of the Supreme Court. Again, we have no intention of bringing in legislation in this area.

The Economy

    Mr. Speaker, we know that CPP saw its assets shrink by $2 billion in the third quarter, including hundreds of millions of dollars in income trusts devastated by the Conservative government. Similar losses are being faced by millions of Canadians as they look at their RRSP statements for February.
    Canadians are deeply worried about the economy, but yesterday the finance minister said that the government had done “enough” to help Canadians.
    Does the Minister of Finance have anything to offer Canadians other than, “Hold on, it's going to be a bumpy ride?”
    Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to respond to the question and talk about all of the amazing tax cuts that were put in place in budget 2007 and our economic statement.
     It is a little in contrast to what the member for Markham—Unionville is asking. He is suggesting that he does not want to see us go into a deficit budget. He then comes with a shopping list as long as it would take to drive us into a deficit position.
    I do not understand the Liberals' costing mechanism over there.
    Mr. Speaker, that is a rather unsatisfactory answer for those who have seen their CPP or RRSPs devastated. It is not surprising that the Conservatives see no role for government. They do not believe in government. Hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs in industry, manufacturing and forestry. Truly tough times are Tory times.
    Does the Minister of Finance agree with his caucus member who said,
     In terms of the unemployed...[we] don't feel particularly bad for many of these people. They don't feel bad about it themselves, as long as they're receiving generous social assistance and unemployment insurance.
     Who said that? The Prime Minister.


    Mr. Speaker, this gives me another opportunity to talk about how strong our economic fundamentals are in the country. That is because of the finance minister and the decisions taken by the Prime Minister.
    We are experiencing the second longest period of economic expansion in Canadian history, much to the contrast of the previous 13 years. Business investment is expanding for the 12th consecutive year.
    I am glad they are cheering me on. I could continue with all the wonderful things we have done on this side of the House.



    Mr. Speaker, the $19 million disbursed to the municipality of Shannon in 2004 by the federal government is not enough to complete the construction of a new water system capable of providing citizens with potable water. An additional $11 million is required.
    Given that it is his responsibility, will the Minister of National Defence promise to provide additional financial assistance to Shannon in order to complete construction of the water system?


    Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Forces have been working with the people of Shannon for years. The people of the community have been using the Valcartier water system for years. We are working with them every day to try to make the situation as good as we can. We will continue to do that.


    Mr. Speaker, furthermore, the Conservatives had promised to complete the repairs to the Quebec bridge, a promise it did not keep although they took CN to court to force it to complete the work. Since CN is refusing to honour its commitments, the federal government must regain ownership.
    Will the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities undertake to rescind this transfer enabling the federal government to regain ownership of the bridge and complete the repairs, as the Conservatives promised in the last election?
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to accomplishments in the greater Quebec City area over the past two years, we can mention the Chauveau stadium, our participation in the study on high-speed trains, an investment of $15 million in the airport, CED investments in the 400th anniversary celebrations and, of course, the Quebec bridge.
    As my hon. colleague is aware, this matter is presently before the courts.


Election Expenses

    Mr. Speaker, in looking for more proof that accountability was nothing more than a Conservative slogan during the campaign, we can just look at the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
    The government has done everything possible to block an investigation by Elections Canada that found the Conservative Party, and no other party, overspending the legal limit for national advertising by a million dollars.
    Will the member for Cambridge, the chair of that committee, assure this House that at the very next meeting there will be a democratic vote on hearings on the Conservatives' in and out scheme, or will he continue to merely be a pawn of the PMO?
    Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the enthusiasm. I can say that it is indeed ironic to hear members of the Liberal Party complaining about this, because it is those members of the Liberal Party who are blocking and refusing to have an investigation into all political parties when it comes to spending. The Liberals are only willing to look at one. I quote Vincent Marissal in La Presse today, “Opposition MPs are perverting the role of parliamentary committees and turning them into courts of inquisition to attack one another and settle their petty partisan squabbles”.
    That is how those parties have poisoned the operation of this Parliament. Canadians deserve better.



Cap-Tourmente National Wildlife Area

    Mr. Speaker, the Cap-Tourmente National Wildlife Area is a wonderful natural setting in which to observe wildlife up close on the Côte-de-Beaupré, near Quebec City.
    It is one of Canada's main ornithological sites and is also a staging area for the world's only population of greater snow geese, which gather there by the thousands every year.
    Recently, some members of the Bloc Québécois have spread all kinds of rumours, as usual, about the funding for the Cap-Tourmente Wildlife Area.
    Could my hon. colleague, the Minister of the Environment, share the truth with the House?
    Always the truth, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the question from my colleague, the member for Louis-Hébert. I am proud to tell the House that our government has taken tangible steps to protect the Cap-Tourmente Wildlife Area. My colleague, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages, is actually the one who worked tirelessly on this issue, and so I am able to confirm that the government will provide stable funding to the wildlife area in the future.


First Nations Technical Institute

    Mr. Speaker, First Nations Technical Institute is in limbo waiting for the government to decide if it supports aboriginal education or just likes to talk about it.
    The federal government is threatening to cut two-thirds of the funding to FNTI on April 1 and says that the alumni should fund raise to make up the difference between the federal cut and the needs identified by FNTI. Students deserve leadership on this issue.
    Is the minister going to commit to supporting on reserve schools like FNTI with long term sustained funding, or is he just going to keep talking about it?
    Mr. Speaker, we did come up with emergency funding to keep this technical institute open until the end of the school year. We have for the last several years attempted to get this institute to come up with a business plan that would make it sustainable in the longer run.
    There are six or seven other first nations schools in the province of Ontario, all of them doing good work. Unfortunately, just this one institute comes back every year for emergency funding. I am urging it to consider other business plans, as the other schools are doing, to make sure that we can have a long term, sustainable first nations education.


Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs

    Mr. Speaker, my question is for the chair of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
    For many months now, he has been delaying the committee's work by not applying the rules at his disposal to ensure the proper functioning of the committee.
    Will he commit to taking his role seriously next week and restoring order in the committee or will he follow his government's agenda of partisan tactics?
    Mr. Speaker, I know the chair of that committee and I believe he always takes his responsibilities seriously.

Presence in the Gallery

    Order, please. I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of Mr. Guy Gurwez.


    Mr. Gruwez has for 40 years been the chair of the Last Post Association in Belgium and thus responsible for a nightly ceremony commemorating the 7,000 Canadian soldiers who were killed in World War I and whose names are etched on the Menin Gate at Ypres.
    Some hon. members: Hear, hear!


Official Report

    I believe the hon. Secretary of State for Small Business and Tourism has a point of order she would like to raise in the House. I will recognize her for that purpose now.
    Mr. Speaker, I refer to page 2662 of Hansard. Yesterday in question period, when I answered a question, I misspoke. I would like to advise the House of the correct information.
    This was about the government spending on tourism. The government spending on tourism is $800,000 over two years.

Government Orders

[Government Orders]


Prebudget Consultations

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
     Prior to oral question period, the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain had the floor. There are five minutes left for questions and comments.
    Since there are no questions or comments, we will continue the debate. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I speak to the prebudget consultations today. First of all, we should remember that the Bloc Québécois had set six conditions for its support of the 2008 budget: an assistance plan to help workers and businesses affected by the forestry and manufacturing crisis, measures to restore dignity to seniors, the return of the education and social programs transfer to 1994-95 indexed levels, increased funding for social housing and a reversal of the Conservative government's ideological cuts, increased funding for culture, and a 180-degree turn on the environment.
    You will not be surprised to hear me talk about assistance for the manufacturing sector in this House. I am the industry critic and therefore take considerable interest in this matter. The manufacturing and forestry industries are experiencing an unprecedented crisis. The committee recommended that the government implement various initiatives to help the sectors and workers affected by the crisis.
    The Standing Committee on Finance therefore recommended that the government allocate $1 billion to the forestry sector. The Committee also recommended that the government allocate $1.5 billion in reimbursable contributions to allow companies to purchase new equipment. There was also the recommendation to increase the excise tax on gas to 5¢ per litre and to permanently transfer this federal tax, effective 2008-09, to all municipalities, a request made many times by Quebec municipalities.
    We also want to support the workers affected by this crisis. To that end, the committee recommends that the government create an independent employment insurance fund and an assistance program for older workers. Naturally, the Bloc Québécois is disappointed that the committee did not accept its suggestion to use the surplus in the independent employment insurance fund to enhance the program.
    Furthermore, the committee ignored our request to reinstate the Technology Partnerships Canada program, at a cost of $500 million. But the facts are tragic. Action must be taken; the situation is urgent.
    Here are some figures. Since January 1, 2003, 148,000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector. Since the Conservatives took power in 2006, 78,000 jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector. And these numbers are just for Quebec. Since April 2005, 21,000 jobs have been lost in the forestry industry alone, which includes the related industries and services, such as transport and forestry equipment. That is just over half of the total in Canada. Since the Conservatives took power, Quebec's forestry industry has lost nearly a quarter of its jobs. In total, of the 288,000 jobs lost in Canada, 148,000, or 51%, were in Quebec.
    I hardly need remind hon. members that the forestry industry is important to Quebec. Quebec has 88,000 jobs in forestry, sawmills and pulp and paper plants; 230 cities and towns depend primarily on the forestry industry, and 160 cities and towns depend exclusively on it. Nearly half the forest communities in Canada are in Quebec. The forestry industry is a key reason for settlement patterns in Quebec. We do not want people to leave our regions.
    We have worked to propose solutions that we would like to see in the coming budget. They include support for businesses that want to buy new production equipment. This can take the form of a program of loans and loan guarantees to help companies modernize.
    Companies that are suffering and having difficulty borrowing money on private markets must pay a risk premium, which increases the interest they pay. If companies are to compete successfully, they must buy new production equipment, which means that the government must guarantee their loans.


    We also suggest a series of investments and tax measures to support research and development in industry. The federal government must provide better tax support for corporate research, development and innovation. It must expand the range of expenses that are eligible for funding, for example, by including the cost of taking out patents or training personnel to work on innovative projects.
    In addition, the R&D tax credit must be made refundable so that companies can take advantage of it, even if they are at the development stage and not yet turning a profit. It can take many years to develop a new product. We need to support our businesses.
    The federal government really must support research and development by cancelling the cuts to the Technology Partnerships program and increasing the program's funding instead. It must make sure that the program funds really go to the provinces so that they can distribute the funding where it is most needed.
    Leading-edge sectors such as pharmaceuticals, environmental technologies, advanced materials and production technology have been left on their own. Contrary to this government's claims, the tax cut is not a cure-all. We must reintroduce an economic diversification program for forest regions.
     Because I represent a resource region, I am in a position to understand the difficulties a region can experience when its primary economic activity is in jeopardy. A number of regions in Quebec are taking the full brunt of this crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.
     The Bloc Québécois is therefore proposing that special attention be given to the resource regions that are affected by the present forestry crisis and that desperately need to diversify their industrial base. We must therefore restore a regional economic diversification and support program for the regions that have been hit by the forestry crisis.
     We must offer tax breaks for the companies operating in resource regions and support them while they grow by encouraging skilled workers to settle in the regions. We must create a program to support the development of energy and ethanol production using forest waste.
    The Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec has eliminated the program specifically devoted to the regions affected by the forestry crisis. That is the laissez-faire policy adopted by the government. We saw nothing in the Speech from the Throne or in the Minister of Finance's economic statement. We must see some solutions in this budget.
     On the question of revising trade laws to provide our businesses with better protection against unfair competition, we can see that as a result of the Conservative laissez-faire trade policy our businesses are being left to their own devices to deal with what is sometimes unfair competition. Canadian antidumping laws date from the Cold War era and are completely out of date in the present situation, particularly for dealing with China. It is urgent that Canadian trade laws be brought up to the same standard as in the other industrialized nations, in particular the United States and the European Union countries.
     As well, despite the fact that the Standing Committee in Industry, Science and Technology unanimously recommended that it do so in its February 2007 report on the manufacturing sector, the government is not modernizing its antidumping legislation. They are completely out of date and give our businesses less protection than the laws of virtually all of the industrialized nations.
     Lastly, we propose better financial support for the workers who are hit by the crisis in the manufacturing sector. We believe it is necessary to enhance the employment insurance program. We also have to make sure that we avert an exodus of workers hit by this crisis, and we have to support those of our workers aged 55 to 64 who are victims of mass layoffs.
     To conclude, the Bloc Québécois is close to the grassroots; it stands with the people of Quebec; and it is trying to find solutions that will address this crisis. It seems to us that the next budget is an opportunity to deal with this, and we call on this government to take action. It is urgent, and this is the time when it must be done; the future of our communities depends on it.



Citizenship Act

    (Bill C-37. On the Order: Government Orders:)

    December 10, 2007--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act--the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.
    Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I believe you would find the unanimous consent of the House for the following motion.
     I move:
    That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-37, An Act to amend the Citizenship Act, shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.
    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Routine Proceedings

[Routine Proceedings]


Committees of the House

Fisheries and Oceans 

    That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, the debate pursuant to Standing Order 66 scheduled for tonight be deemed to have taken place and the First Report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented on Thursday, December 6, 2007, be now concurred in.
    Does the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed.)


    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In the translation, it said something about Standing Order 67 and on the paper it says Standing Order 66. I just want to clarify that it is Standing Order 66.


    Mr. Speaker, it is 66.


Emergency Debate

    That, during today's debate on the Emergency Debate, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Speaker.
    Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous of the House to propose this motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.
    The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
    Some hon. members: Agreed.

    (Motion agreed to)

Official Report

    Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have good news and bad news for the House.
    The bad news is that my correction that I made previously was in error and in fact the federal government spending on tourism is $800 million over two years.
    The good news is that I devoutly hope this is the very last thing the House will hear on this topic from me.


    I thank the hon. Secretary of State for her careful correction of all statements in this matter.


[Government Orders]


Prebudget Consultations

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the hon. member for Trois-Rivières, on her excellent speech. She is the Bloc Quebecois industry critic and I can assure this House that industry and indeed all workers are well represented by this member.
    All the solutions put forward by the Bloc Québécois have been reviewed and, more importantly, endorsed by industry. I would like the member to tell us how manufacturers, that is, businessmen and women in the forestry industry, and the unions reacted to the proposals and solutions put forward by the Bloc Québécois.
    Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question.
    Bloc Québécois members held prebudget consultations across Quebec. We met with people from businesses, organizations, people from all sectors, workers and union representatives. Naturally, the measures we put forward here in the House are a reflection of what people told us and their demands, and they all said the same thing. It is always an honour for us to bring to this House what the majority of our citizens want.
    We know that the Bloc Québécois is well established in all areas of Quebec. We are very proud to submit these suggestions, in an effort to end this major crisis in the manufacturing and forestry sectors.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Trois-Rivières told us that she accompanied our party's finance critic, the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, on a tour of Quebec and that stakeholders supported the Bloc Québécois' solutions.
    Now can she tell us that many of those solutions and proposals were debated and unanimously adopted by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology? Can she also tell us that the Conservative members accepted most of the solutions proposed by the Bloc Québécois? Can she tell us more about this?
    Mr. Speaker, in November 2007, the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology adopted a report. The report contained 22 recommendations to address the crisis. The report was tabled in the House after the committee spent a year studying the issue and hearing witnesses. Of course we think it is important for the government to adopt a number of these measures. However, only one of the measures—accelerated capital cost allowance—was chosen, and then only by half measures, unfortunately. We still think these recommendations are valid. The committee gave its unanimous approval, and we would like to see them in the budget.
    It is also important to understand that during the prebudget consultations, we met with groups that are often ignored in our budgets, such as status of women and social housing groups. The government often forgets to consult these groups because they do not represent big business. All the same, these people are deeply involved in areas that experienced harsh program cuts, and now they would like their funding back.


    Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a question regarding Burma, or Myanmar.
    The government has given $300 million over five years to Palestine. We had a huge crisis in Burma and the government has done good legislative work on that, but on the aid side there is only $2 million a year.
    I hope we could get all parties in the House to increase that amount. I just came from the Thai-Burma border and lots of money is needed for food and education. There are refugees right on the border. I hope the member would support me on that.


    Mr. Speaker, I would have a hard time commenting because this is not an issue I am familiar with.



    Mr. Speaker, before continuing the debate, I would like to say that I will be splitting my time with the member for Simcoe North.
    Mr. Dennis Bevington: --splitting your title.
    Mr. Gerald Keddy: Mr. Speaker, I heard a comment from the NDP. Perhaps that member would like to repeat it.
    I am please to rise in this debate today. Certainly, there are a couple of fundamentals that really need to be discussed here when discussing the preparation leading up to the budget.
    First, it is important that government listen to those who have elected it. Whether it is this government or any other government, it is extremely important to listen to the people.
    Quite frankly, there is no point in asking Canadians for their views and their advice if we are simply going to ignore them. That counsel, the concerns, the ideas presented to us by Canadians from all walks of life and from all regions of the country, in our case, has contributed immeasurably to the development of a strong and fiscally sensible economic action plan.
    A fact with which we continually struggle is the realization that we cannot do everything at once, but by setting priorities, making realistic choices, and finding ways to do what is needed while still living within our means, we have been able to strengthen our economy and increase opportunities for Canadians now and into the future.
    Even with such progress, we have not finished our work. That is why prebudget consultations are so helpful in developing budgets that better reflect the priorities of all Canadians, not just a select few but all Canadians.
    We are close to completing a series of cross-Canadian round tables and the online prebudget consultation process is still under way. I would encourage all my fellow members in every party in this place to tell their constituents about this unique opportunity to offer their views and suggestions until February 11, the last day of the online consultation. Hon. members will find the online prebudget consultations on the Finance Canada website, for anyone who cares to look.
    We are still receiving comments and ideas for budget 2008 and beyond, so it is too early to comment on all of those results, although I will say, having been a panel member at the prebudget consultations in Halifax, many excellent comments and ideas were received by the panel.
    We heard early and clearly, in our first round of national prebudget consultations after we took office, that Canadians pay too much tax. In fact, lowering taxes stood high on the list of priorities we heard about during our first ever national online prebudget consultation process back in 2006.
    As I said a few minutes ago, there is no point asking people for their advice if we are not willing to act on what we have been told, so we acted quickly on many fronts, and in particular, we acted to reduce taxes.
    We wanted what Canadians said they wanted: to get ahead and stay ahead, and to create better incentives for Canadians to succeed. We also wanted to improve the rewards for working hard, saving and investing in the new knowledge and skills.
    There is no doubt that we have made great strides on the tax front. We have provided relief in every way the government collects taxes: personal taxes, consumption taxes, business taxes and excise taxes.
    We have increased the basic personal amount to $9,600, retroactive to January 1, 2007 and the basic personal amount will be further increased to $10,100 on January 1, 2009.
    This is especially good news for low income Canadians who can least afford to pay taxes. The $10,100 as of 2009 and the $9,600 as of January 1, 2007 is the total amount all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax.


    This measure provides Canadians with an additional $2.5 billion in tax relief in 2007 and 2008. In addition, our government moved the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 15.5%, retroactive to January 1, 2007.
    An hon. member: That's after you raised it last year.
     The opposition members obviously want some part in this discussion and I would be happy to allow them to speak during questions and answers.
    The measure provides Canadians with $8.4 billion in tax relief over this year and the next five years. Personal income taxes will come down even further as a result of our tax back guarantee.
    This fiscal year, we plan to make an additional debt reduction of $10 billion for a total of more than $37 billion in debt relief since coming to office. We are dedicating all interest savings from this shrinking federal debt to further reduce personal income taxes. This is serious debt relief and serious tax relief for Canadians. With the additional debt reduction in the 2007 economic statement, the total value of tax relief provided under the tax back guarantee will rise to $2.5 billion by 2012-13. Together, these income tax cuts will deliver relief on income tax returns this year.
     These tax cuts will move some 385,000 people off the income tax rolls altogether. It is good news for low income Canadians. As a result of the steps we have taken, the purchasing power of consumers will go up. In addition, the take home pay of all Canadians will go up. Reducing taxes for all Canadians is a key part of our long term economic plan entitled “Advantage Canada”.
    It is a plan that would lead to a more rewarding future for Canadians and their families. It is a plan to give Canada and Canadians the key advantages to be able to compete effectively and attract new growth and investment.
    The other four key advantages are: a fiscal advantage eliminating Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation; an infrastructure advantage, building modern world class infrastructure that promotes economic growth, a clean environment and international competitiveness; a knowledge advantage, creating the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world; and an entrepreneurial advantage reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape, and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace.
    I would further like to point out that since coming to office some 24 months ago, our government has taken action that approaches $200 billion in tax relief for Canadians and businesses, bringing taxes to their lowest level in nearly 50 years. As we move forward, the good news is that we are working from a position of strength.
    Our economic fundamentals have remained strong and we can be proud of our achievements. We are experiencing the second longest period of economic expansion in Canadian history. Business investment is expanding for the 12th consecutive year. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in 33 years with more Canadians working than ever before.
     Canada is one of the few countries in the world with a sound public pension plan and we are on the best fiscal footing of the major western industrialized countries. In fact, we are the only member of the G-7 with both ongoing budget surpluses and a falling debt burden.
    In conclusion, we are well along in our 2008 prebudget consultations. We are listening. We are putting Canadians first and without exception, we fully intend to continue to do that.
    I mentioned earlier that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Simcoe North who is a great representative for that part of Ontario. He also has a solid business background as a small businessperson and an entrepreneur, and brings a real small business opportunity and perspective to this debate.
    Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe what I heard, which is a lot of propaganda coming out of the PMO.
    However, one thing the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's did talk about was trying to do what is needed while still living within their means.The problem with that line is that the current Conservative government has basically killed the ability of the federal government to have the means to do what is needed for this country.
    Why do the Conservatives not just admit it? They have taken a country that was the envy of the G-8 in terms of the industrialized world and in terms of fiscal capacity and responsibility and driven it to the brink of deficit.
    The member, in representing his riding, should be standing on the floor demanding some help for the fishermen, the farmers and the hog and beef producers who have basically said, before the agriculture committee the other day, that what the government was doing was seen by their members as a cruel joke to the families that it was supposed to help.
    Why does the member ignore the facts? Why does he make a speech here saying that the government lowered income tax to 15% when in fact just the year before it raised it to 15.5%? Let us lay out some facts.


    Mr. Speaker, there are facts and there are falsehoods and we have just heard the latter.
    The income tax rate was 15.5% last year and we lowered it to 15%. The previous government had gotten a little ahead of itself. It changed it in the booklet but it did not change it in the act. It never went through the House.
    We had a government at the time that was above the law and above Parliament. That is the way the Liberals treated this place for the 13 years they were here and that is the way they would treat it again if they were to come back.
    I will repeat what I said before. We are on the best fiscal footing of the major western industrialized countries. In fact, we are the only member of the G-7 with both an ongoing budget surplus and a falling debt burden.
    We have improved things for fishermen and for farmers. We have cut capital tax, corporate tax and personal income tax. We have supported families. Things are better in rural Canada than they have ever been under this party.
    Mr. Speaker, I missed the first part of the comments by the member from South Shore but I listened to what he asserted to be the facts. I am glad he wants to deal with the facts.
    It is a fact, and the member knows it is a fact, that of the 18 different groups that appeared in Nova Scotia to make a presentation to the finance committee, 15 of them, one way or another, indicated clearly and strongly how opposed they were to the priorities of the government as reflected in the 2007 economic statement and, as they fear, will be reflected in the upcoming budget.
    First, I want to ask the member if he is prepared to acknowledge that that indeed is a fact.
    Second, in his propaganda reading of the PMO line on this, is it not also a fact that he ignored the pleadings of people on behalf of the anti-poverty movement--
    I will have to cut off the hon. member there to allow the hon. parliamentary secretary time to respond.
    Mr. Speaker, I am certainly happy to at least attempt to answer that question but I am sure I will be interrupted by the opposition parties.
    The reality is that the economic fundamentals of Canada are the best they have ever been.
    Let us be realistic about this. We do not know what the future will hold. We do need to be prudent and cautious in the upcoming budget. We do need to take a look south of the border at what the American economy will do. And, we did listen to the presenters who came before us for prebudget consultations.


    Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour and privilege to join the prebudget debate today and, I understand, for the next few days.
    I commend my colleague, the parliamentary secretary and the member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, with whom I share space over in the Justice Building, for his comments. I must say that he has been a great mentor to me. He is a veteran here in the House and for a new member of Parliament it has been good to have a guy like him show us the ropes.
    The topic in front of us today is something that we have been able to reflect on as we look back over the last few months to see the kind of pressures that have come to bear here in Canada and to reflect on the kind of response that we have made in ensuring that Canada's economic fundamentals will allow it to withstand the kind of pressures that we have seen, for example, from the slowdown that seems apparent in the United States.
    I must say that Canada, looking back over the last decade, has not been immune to these outside economic pressures. We witnessed the drying up of the equity market that occurred in the Asian markets not too long ago, the tech bubble, BSE and SARS, various geopolitical events that happened in the world that cause our economy some ill. There is no doubt that in the future the one thing we know for sure is that this will not be the last. There will continue to be events that arise in the world economy. We know that year after year our economy continues to be ever more connected with what happens in the world. We see that in trade. We see that our dependence on a strong economy relies on good trade relationships with other parts of the world. We can all be sure that will be increasingly important. What that also brings is the greater likelihood that world events will impact our economy.
    How do we prepare for that? The measures that this government has taken in the last year have been exactly spot on in what we need to do. Almost every economist will say that the best way to manage and backstop against those kind of pressures is to concentrate on fundamentals, concentrate on getting our fiscal house in order, ensuring that we are making the right investments, that we are not overtaxing Canadians and that we are reducing our debt. I would maintain that is exactly what this government has been doing the last two years, which is what has given rise to the kinds of things that my hon. colleague talked about.
    We have reduced debt by some $37 billion since we took office. We have seen taxes go down. Taxes for all Canadians and businesses right across the country have been reduced by some $190 billion that has been lightened up from our economy.
    What do we see happening from that? We see unemployment being at its lowest level in some 30 years.
    Those are all the result of sticking to the basics.
    The opposition wants to talk about programs. I will take, for example, the community development trust. This was a good program that was devised, in particular, for one industry towns where the workers were in transition and needed help and to help those towns build stronger new economies.
    What do we hear? We hear that it is not enough. The opposition members would have us spend and spend. They would take us into deficit. They do not seem to talk. Let me correct that. They do think the GST should go back up to 7%. We have heard that from them as well. The GST is putting some $12 billion back in the pockets of Canadians because of those two measures, a promise we kept from the 2006 election. They would put that GST back up to 7%.


    I would need to defer to some of the commentary the Liberals would bring on this question. It would be up to them to tell Canadians how they would disburse these new taxes that they would apply back to Canadians, but they have a tax and spend approach, which t is exactly what failed Canada in the past.
    Our approach is to liberate the economy and that is what we are doing. We are making investments in the right areas and to have fiscal balance. We are trying to ensure that the provinces and territories are working on an even footing, that they have the kinds of resources they need to spend in their jurisdictions that is fair, predictable and consistent, the kind of proper balance needed between the two levels of government to ensure we are serving Canadians well.
    We invest in the right areas but at the end of the day we ensure that the kind of economic decisions we make enable Canada's economy. What has come as a result of that? My hon. friend from South Shore—St. Margaret's has explained that in some detail.
    I have had the opportunity over the last six months to participate in the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. It has been a very enlightening experience listening to the testimony in committee on the topic that we are discussing on the service sector of Canada's industries. Some 75% of our economy is in the service sector, a critical sector for our economy.
    The committee had several meetings on the whole issue of how the strengthening of the Canadian dollar has impacted us here in Canada. What the witnesses said supports exactly the kind of logic that we have applied, not just in our economic statement this past fall, not just in budget 2007, but going right back to when we campaigned back in 2005-06 to bring a new and better approach for Canada, and it is paying off.
    This is not the time to start delving into robust, strong interventionist policies, the kind of heavy spending, heavy intervention by governments that, to be honest, got us in trouble back in the 1970s and 1980s. It was those kinds of approaches, these knee-jerk reactions to try to jump in and use public dollars to create imbalances in our economy that caused the ebb and flow to issues around inflation and interest rates.
    Many members will remember that that was a very chaotic time for our economy. We have learned from that and we are doing a better job of it. This government will continue that approach. No one ever wants to see job losses in the country, but the fact is that when times come upon us where we need to re-tool, adjust and equip ourselves for the newer economy, adjustments will take place.
    What we heard from witnesses who appeared before the committee is that while we may have lost some jobs in one part of the sector of the economy, we are actually gaining even more in other sectors. We may have lost 100,000 or so jobs in some sectors of the economy, in this case in manufacturing, but we have actually gained 400,000 jobs in another sector. The net gain has been positive.
    Some think, in the service sector in particular, that all jobs are low paying. That has not been the experience. Every sector has its highs and lows in terms of quality employment, the kinds of jobs that can give people the livelihoods they need to raise their families, move ahead and be tremendous contributors to Canadian society. That is what we all want and that is what we are all looking for.
    The fact is that times are changing and Canada needs to adjust with it. The very best way we can do that is to ensure we concentrate on giving the economy all the tools it needs to have effective job opportunities, the right kinds of investments and the kind of dynamic, competitive environment that will attract investment, and that is happening. We are seeing companies coming to Canada doing a fantastic job.


    Other members have suggested that there is some kind of demise of our manufacturing sector. I have to say that our manufacturing sector is the most resilient and the strongest part of our economy that I have seen.
    In Midland, Ontario in my riding, there is a sector that is 35% overrepresented on the provincial average of manufacturing jobs. Yes, they are going through some paces and they are having to make some adjustments, but they are in business and they are performing well. In other sectors of manufacturing in Canada, bigger investment is coming.
     I will end with that. I invite comments from my colleagues.
    Mr. Speaker, there are two things I want to comment on.
    My colleague opposite speaks of the GST. I would say to him that he is reinventing a reality when he says that members on this side of the House have any intention of raising the GST. I do want to ask him why, when he cites economists, he does not cite those economists who said that the GST was the worst possible tax cut the government could employ, that in fact it should have been looking at income taxes?
    When he speaks about government spending, I particularly want him to comment on the fact that with the Liberal government, from 1992-93 to 2005-06, program spending was 2.3% and Liberal government spending, after balancing the budget from 1997 to 2005-06, was 5.5%. With the Conservative government from 2005-07 it was 6.4% and the direct federal spending by the Conservative government was 8.6%. That is higher than any previous Liberal government since 1992.
    How does he reconcile his remarks with these figures?
    Mr. Speaker, first, on the GST, the GST was in fact reduced to 6% last year and to 5%, which is where it is right now. We welcomed members opposite to support us in that decision, but if I recall, they voted against that. They were against reducing the GST. I assume from that they would have preferred to keep it where it was. That is the root of my comments.
    On the other question, this government in the last two years has reduced debt by $37 billion. The debt is now down to $457 billion, the lowest it has been in some 25 years. At the same time, we have liberated the taxes on Canadians by some $190 billion. We have done that and we have continued to make sure that investments are in the right place.
    Yes, we are investing in things like supporting our men and women in the armed forces. These are important priorities, the kinds of things that we promised we would do also.

Message from the Senate

     I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill: Bill C-41, An Act respecting payments to a trust established to provide provinces and territories with funding for community development.

Prebudget Consultations

    The House resumed consideration of the motion.
    Mr. Speaker, with respect to my colleague's comments, we are very concerned around the change in the corporate tax rates in this country. The change in the rates will affect primarily businesses and corporations that have profits. One of the clear winners is the banks. The banks and the financial institutions have about 35% of pre-tax profit in this country. If we calculate those figures, what this means to the banks is about $4 billion a year by 2012 in the banks' pockets.
    How does this fit with building our economy? How does this make our economy work better?


    The short answer to the question, Mr. Speaker, is we are on track to get the corporate taxes down to 15% and we advanced the small business tax to 11% even one year quicker than we originally intended to. This puts us at the lowest corporate tax rates of all of the G-7 and the right kind of taxes to attract a competitive and dynamic environment where businesses will want to invest in Canada and create jobs.
    Finally, with regard to the banks, I do not want to be an apologist at all for the banking community, but one must remember that many Canadians have investments, stocks and mutual funds invested in these kinds of corporations. Those are investments and profits that actually help their own retirement incomes as well.
    Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants.
    I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak during this prebudget debate. In the coming weeks we are expecting to see a budget from the government, a government that so far has let down Canadians across the country and has particularly let down the people of Manitoba and of Winnipeg.
    Two years ago the government inherited a sound fiscal record left by the previous Liberal government, a government that worked for nearly 13 years to bring our country out of deficit, a deficit, I might add, that we inherited from the former Conservative government, a pattern not uncommon to Conservative governments.
    It was a Liberal government that produced eight consecutive balanced budgets. Canada had the best fiscal record of all the G-7 economies when the Liberals left office.
    Times were good when the government took office and now our fervent wish and top priority is that the Conservative government now stay out of deficit. As hard times are upon us, the fiscal cupboard is almost empty. We have seen a government that cares more about posturing and power, a government that politicizes the affairs of the country, a government that often misspeaks.
    The government has introduced two budgets and an economic statement. We saw a spending spree when times were good, and I would say, irresponsible tax cuts aimed to attract the voter rather than sound fiscal management.
    It also managed to cut in areas that would make us more productive, such as research and innovation, or in areas that were in desperate need, such as literacy and poverty.
    I want to touch on a number of issues that are of concern to the people of Manitoba and those issues that aboriginal Canadians face today that must be addressed by the government in its upcoming budget. We see a trend from the government and its fiscal record, a trend that entails mismanagement, hypocrisy, vindictiveness, and as I said before, much misspeak. There is misspeak on lowering income taxes while in fact increasing them, misspeak on program formats while in fact the government cut funds and narrowed the criteria.
    When the government decided to break its promise on income trusts, it destroyed $25 billion of Canadians' hard-earned savings. This was a direct hit to the pockets of every Canadian. The income trusts policy, I would say, was based on a false premise. The Conservatives have not been able to prove the notion that income trusts give rise to substantial tax leakage and tax unfairness. It is completely false. It has been discredited by many experts.
    What there has not been enough public discussion on, and my colleague raised it earlier in question period, is how indeed this income trusts debacle is affecting both the CPP and other public and private pension programs. That is something that requires further study.
    I also want to note that while holidaying far away, I was stopped on the street by a resident of my constituency, whom I do not know, who complained about income trusts and the horrendous impact it had on his family's finances.
    It is also troubling to hear the Prime Minister and his finance minister say that the federal government has no role to play in urban communities. We know that last November the Federation of Canadian Municipalities came out with a report entitled, “Danger Ahead: The Coming Collapse of Canada's Municipal Infrastructure”. The report outlines a, what is said to be underestimated, $123 billion infrastructure deficit that Canadian municipalities now face. The report called for a national plan to eliminate this deficit and prepare the groundwork for effective management of our infrastructure.
    The shell game the government is playing with infrastructure money is really an insult to Canadians. The reality is that Liberal programs are the backbone of that funding. The reality is that of the new money the government says it is putting forward, four programs are not accessible to municipalities.


    The real Conservative building Canada fund is $8.8 million, and even that is suspect, and now may be as little as $1.3 billion over seven years. That is disgraceful and duplicitous.
    In Manitoba we are anxious to know that funding for the floodway will come out of the old Liberal national strategic infrastructure program, not out of provincial allocations. Bridges, roads and water are very important to Manitobans.
    The environment is a priority for everyone. We have an obligation to address this issue now and for the future.
    Unfortunately, we are seeing no leadership from the members opposite. The Prime Minister was quoted in the Toronto Star in June 2004 as saying, “Carbon dioxide does not cause or contribute to smog, and the Kyoto treaty would do nothing to reduce or prevent smog”. Perhaps that is another misspeak.
    The government claims it has taken action on the environment, but again it is empty rhetoric and an empty plan. We have a plan. I am not going to go into any details, but we know that the carbon budget would make a difference.
    The government has restricted access to the home energy retrofit program for those who need it most. There is less money in the program, narrower criteria, and those who are poor cannot access it.
    We hear it over and over again from every pulpit and every podium that children are our future. Well, the government must show it and invest in children and invest in post-secondary education.
    The official opposition is committed to working with the provinces to bring forth an effective, high quality child care early learning program for families, something each and every child has a right to. We have not seen the promised 125,000 spaces. We have not seen the 32,000 spaces the minister says he has created.
    In my riding of Winnipeg South Centre day cares have waiting lists of 300 children. Parents are forced to leave their employment. Many are not achieving their goals of further education because they do not have the necessary supports for their children.
    On September 27, the headline in the Winnipeg Free Press read, “Tories say they made child care boo-boo”. It was a big boo-boo and Canadians are paying for it.
    I recently visited the aboriginal head start program in Winnipeg where the evaluations are showing they are changing the realities and opportunities for academic success for children and their families who participate in the program. I urge the government to look at this seriously.
    In terms of post-secondary education, money must be available to students and universities for the direct and indirect costs of research. The government must go further than it did in budget 2007. Yes, there was money for 4,000 graduate students, and I appreciate that, and I am sure they appreciate that as well, but what about the undergraduate students? What about the students struggling to make ends meet? What about those young Canadians who cannot even access post-secondary education?
    The millennium scholarship fund must be renewed. Countless Manitoba students have had their debt load reduced through this program and it has enabled them to go on to further education.
    I cannot stand here and not talk about aboriginal Canadians. Members opposite treated the Kelowna accord, which dealt with the issues of poverty, education, housing, health, governance on reserve and off, with what I would call disgusting disrespect for this initiative. For 18 months it was a consultative process and all parties came up with a solution. It is a priority if we are going to close the gap.
    We have seen how the Conservative government operates: income trusts; investment tax deductibility; squandering of fiscal prudence; raised income taxes for the poorest versus a regressive GST cut that benefits the rich; a relief package for workers that does too little, too late; mounting job losses; a rising dollar; a struggling U.S. economy; and a number of our own key sectors in trouble.
    Even the current finance minister has not excused himself with tremendous credibility on the financial management front. I speak not just of squandered fiscal prudence and income trust debacles, but the simple management of his own office and the disregard for his own government's guidelines.


    Mr. Speaker, I know how hard the hon. member has worked on a variety of issues, whether we talk about child care or women's issues. I have attended many meetings with the hon. member and know of her intense interest in the issues surrounding the aboriginal community.
     It has been two years since the Kelowna accord was taken apart and destroyed. Has there been any progress at all in dealing with the aboriginal files?
    The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of ACOA on a point of order. I think I may know what he is grieving.
    I think you may, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member is an experienced politician in the House. She should be well aware that when we ask questions or present points in the House, we are supposed to be in our own seats.
    I appreciate the hon. member raising that point. I was just double checking. I will allow the hon. member for Malpeque to ask a question, while the hon. member for York West finds her normal seat.
     The hon. member for Malpeque.
    Mr. Speaker, the member for Winnipeg South Centre made a lot of good points, but I know she did not have time in her remarks to make them all.
    My question for her relates to the Canadian Wheat Board, which I know is centred in her city. The Wheat Board and others have done an analysis that the moves by the government will take about $800 million net out of the collective economy of farmers. It was admitted by an official of the Department of Agriculture, before the federal court on an appeal, that the Government of Canada, in terms of its Wheat Board change, had not done any economic analysis, either pro or con, on its moves.
    Does the member really believe it is a responsible government when it does not do any economic analysis and, in the whole process, puts at risk jobs in her city and certainly goes against the democratic desires of farmers in the west?
    Mr. Speaker, my colleague is right. I did not have time in my remarks to speak to the issue of the Wheat Board, which is of grave concern for Manitobans. It is of grave concern to those farmers who have been railroaded and not respected in their choice and their will on the Canadian Wheat Board.
    However, a study has been done. The impact on the city of Winnipeg is profound. What is also profound is the deafening silence from members opposite, not speaking up for the impact on the city of Winnipeg and the farmers. What is the point of electing them if they cannot speak up on behalf of their constituents?
    My colleague is right. Thousands of direct and indirect jobs will be lost. Many producers will be affected. It will have a profound impact on Portage and Main. Head companies will leave Manitoba. There is no speaking up on that side—


    The hon. member for Yellowhead.
    Mr. Speaker, as I listened to the hon. member across the way go through her discussion and her speech with regard to the prebudget consultation, I was struck by a couple of things.
    First, I will ask a short question. Does the hon. member understand the agricultural community very well? Sectors in the agricultural community have never seen better times than we have had in the last couple of years. The future looks even better than we have ever seen in the oil and grain sectors. The hog and beef sectors are the only ones going through a difficult time and the present time.
    They count too.
    They do count.
    We went across Canada and listened to every Canadian we could find and asked for their input on the prebudget consultation. We never heard one word from anyone on the Kelowna accord. Yet we see it as an addendum to the supplementary comments by the Liberal Party.
     Where did the Liberals get their testimony to put that into a report when we had absolutely no testimony presented before us—
    The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre has a very short time to respond.
    Mr. Speaker, I reiterate what I called in my remarks, a disgusting disrespect for the Kelowna accord.
    The Kelowna accord was an eighteen month consultation process made up of the leaders of the aboriginal community from coast to coast to coast and the leadership of the provinces and the federal government. Their concerns dealt with education, health care, housing and governance. It is of profound importance for—
    Resuming debate, the hon. member for Kings—Hants.
    Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak on prebudget consultation as we lead up to what is arguably the most important legislative instrument of the government on an annual basis, the introduction of a budget.
     It is interesting today that the debate is around where to spend the surplus. That was not always the case. It took years and it was a struggle for all Canadians, not just a Liberal government that worked to reduce and eliminate the deficit. However, over a period of time all Canadians made sacrifices and worked together to achieve what was to become the soundest fiscal situation in any of the industrialized world. A declining debt to GDP ratio, a capacity for governments both to lower taxes and increase spending. In fact, the Conservative government inherited the strongest fiscal situation of any government in the history of Canada upon entering office.
    It is interesting that the member for Yellowhead said something that was extremely telling a few minutes ago. He posed the question as to why the Liberals still cared about the Kelowna accord. Why did Liberals include the Kelowna accord as one of their priorities? Why did Liberals still considered the Kelowna accord to be important? According to the member for Yellowhead, in the consultations across the country, he did not hear many Canadians speaking about that.
    A responsible and progressive government would defend the rights and interests of all Canadian, regardless of whether they form the majority. The government and the Conservative Party have demonstrated a remarkable capacity under the Prime Minister to pit one group against another, to write people off if they do not believe they will vote for them. It was for easy for them to write off the Kelowna accord.
    They did a simple political calculation and politically the aboriginal and first nations people in Canada would not vote for the Conservatives, so they were expendable. It was very easy for them also to eliminate early learning and child care. They calculated that by and large young women would not vote for them according to the polls, so they wrote them off. They took them off the political balance sheet.
    Good governments and principled governments do more than help those people who vote for them. They help all Canadians. There is a responsibility, particularly for aboriginal and first nations communities, to work with them, to address the economic and social challenges that are faced by aboriginal and first nations communities. It not just good public policy for them to ensure equality of opportunity, but it is good public policy for all Canadians, particularly as we see aboriginal and first nations communities being one of the fastest growing populations in the country.
    If we do not, as non-aboriginal political representatives, take this seriously, we are letting down all Canadians on what could be a massive economic and social challenge. We need to not only bring back the Kelowna accord and address those social issues, but we need to move beyond Kelowna and address the economic challenges and opportunities for Canadian aboriginal people.
    My riding in rural Nova Scotia has three aboriginal reserves, the Cambridge Reserve, Port Reserve and Shubenacadie Reserve. The challenges being faced by people in those communities is immense. As a government, we invested in schools at Shubenacadie Reserve and we invested in people. We were prepared to move beyond that with the Kelowna accord on a national basis. I would like, as one the priorities of a future Liberal government, to restore the Kelowna accord and to move beyond it.
    We believed in early learning and child care. In fact, it is not just good social policy; it is good economic policy. An article in The Economist magazine called “A guide to womenomics” focused on the kinds of economic policies that not only could address equality issues, but also address economic growth and prosperity. It pointed to the countries that enjoyed the greatest level of economic growth, particularly Scandinavian countries. These countries not only did the right thing in terms of reforming their tax systems and cutting corporate and personal taxes and moving to a more competitive tax system, but they also invested in social policy, particularly early learning and child care.


    If we do not have a strong network of early learning and child care, it will hurt women disproportionately. Women pay a higher career cost and earnings cost than men, typically, for the responsibility of raising children. Regardless of how progressive couples become, that continues to be a fact.
    The degree to which communities and society work together to share that burden and opportunity will reduce the barriers for women in the workplace and increase the economic prosperity of the country. That was made clear by The Economist. It is not a left wing or right wing principle; it is just good, basic, sound economic and social policy.
    Beyond that, we are in a situation where other countries, and I mentioned some of the Scandinavian countries, countries like Norway and Sweden and Ireland and Australia, have reformed their tax systems to be more competitive. One of the benefits we have as a country in a surplus situation is we can reform our tax system. There is no country in the world, however, that is reforming its tax system by cutting a consumption tax. Canada is the only one.
    The global economic consensus is that a country is better off cutting personal income taxes and reducing income tax. In fact, with the $14 billion per year that the Conservatives are expending with the GST cut, they could have increased the basic personal exemption, the point at which Canadians start paying income taxes, to about $20,000 per year. It is currently around $9,600. We could take millions and millions of low income Canadians off the income tax rolls altogether and provide a tax break through the income tax system to all Canadians and have a more competitive tax system.
    The fact is our corporate tax rates are still higher than many of our OECD competitors. While statutory corporate tax rates may be becoming as competitive, the actual effect of corporate tax rates are still higher in Canada. The problem is it is a moving target. The Conservatives are saying that in five or ten years Canada will be one of the most competitive corporate tax environments in the world. In five or ten years other countries are going to move faster, address corporate taxes and become more competitive and we are going to be sitting here. They say in the long run that we will be more competitive. John Maynard Keynes, the economist, once said, “In the long run, we're all dead”.
    We actually have a responsibility to be nimble, to move more quickly and to reform our tax system for growth, prosperity and equity more quickly. Cutting the GST is not the best way to achieve that. I believe it is more important to cut personal income taxes.
    Beyond that, it is critically important that we not ignore the looming economic challenges facing the country. The reduction, or practically the elimination, of the fiscal envelope or fiscal capacity of the government to act in times of crisis is troubling. The latest edition of The Economist magazine said, “Economists reckon that Canada's fiscal and current account surpluses could disappear”.
    Who would have thought, even a few months ago, that a country with as massive a surplus as Canada was enjoying, a country that had been lauded by countries, economists and finance ministers around the world as a beacon of fiscal probity and economic innovation would have The Economist magazine say, “Economists reckon that Canada's fiscal and current account balances could disappear?”
    It is a very serious situation because it speaks to the bad economic management of the government. Not only is it incapable of investing in sound social policy, but it is also incapable of good economic growth policy. I would not mind it being completely market reliant and laissez-faire if it in fact understood the market.
    Beyond that, Canadians are looking for long term investments on recreational infrastructure. Across my riding, facilities were built in the memorial wave of federal investment. Facilities, arenas and recreational facilities were built as part of the centennial wave of federal investment. However, across my riding there is a tremendous infrastructure deficit in places like Lantz, Brooklyn and Windsor.