Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the economic statement, because—as we have seen in Quebec in particular, but also in Canada—this statement has been unanimously condemned by political and economic commentators and the general public.
Everyone, except perhaps the Conservatives and the , expected that the 's economic statement would contain measures to deal with the financial and economic crisis and help the victims of this crisis. Instead, the statement is a series of financial measures that either are obvious or have no major impact on what people in the regions or in hard-hit sectors of the economy are going through. That was our first disappointment. I will come back to this, because the Bloc Québécois had made proposals to the government last week and even earlier, yet the government unfortunately ignored them, preferring to take an ideological, laissez-faire approach. Obviously, this was a major disappointment.
But what shocked us the most was that the economic statement not only included no measures to support the economy and help businesses, hard-hit sectors or victims of the economic and financial crisis, but it contained purely ideological attacks that had absolutely nothing to do with the economic situation we are going through. Obviously, I am referring to political party financing.
Why challenge rules on which we all agreed, including in 2006, when the Conservative government amended the political party financing legislation? It eliminated corporate contributions—a measure we supported—capped individual contributions at $1,100 and kept the provision whereby political parties received federal funding pro-rated to the number of votes they received.
Why call all that into question now, when the , the and the were talking about cooperation and conciliation in the House? Why did they bring in such a measure, which was nothing more than a way of provoking the opposition?
As for suspending the right to strike of federal public servants, why was it important to introduce such a measure? First, they deny a basic right recognized internationally by an organization such as the International Labour Organization. Furthermore, just a few days earlier, it had been announced that an agreement in principle had been reached with the largest public service union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Did they not only want to bring this union to its knees but also to crush it completely? That is exactly what they did and it was unacceptable to us and to the opposition parties, as well as to all unions across Canada.
In addition, and it is important to say it, that brings into question agreements already signed. It was announced in the economic statement that wage increases would be limited to 2.3% the first year, 1.5% the second and 1.5% the third. Yet, some unions negotiated in good faith with this government and secured increases greater than these.
Once again, this government has demonstrated that not only does it have an ideological agenda that it will use the crisis to advance but, furthermore, that it has nothing but contempt for the right to negotiate, the right to strike and finally, for the work that thousands of public servants do here, in Ottawa, and across Canada and Quebec.
One last item was extremely surprising and shocking, and once again provoked the opposition and Canadian and Quebec civil society: why take away the right of women to go before a court to redress wage discrimination under the right to pay equity? And why make this wholly subject to negotiation when we are talking about a right? Once again not only did they provoke the opposition but they violated the right of women to pay equity.
Unfortunately, it must be said that there is some method to these three provocations, particularly with respect to the opposition parties. The legislation on political party funding is an extremely important component of the democratic process. Were it not for that legislation, some parties would be unable to conduct a campaign or put their platform forward, as the Green Party did in the last election, for example. Certainly we are not Green Party supporters, but we in the Bloc Québécois are supporters of democratic discourse. Theirs is a vision that is entitled to expression in a democratic society and a vision that the Conservative government wants to stifle and prevent from being expressed in the public arena.
And so this is an attack on democracy. The same is true of the elimination of the right to strike, a right that is also a fundamental component of a democracy. It is also true in the case of pay equity: prohibiting women from going to court, for reasons that I am unable to discern, is also an attack on democratic processes, and in particular the opportunity to apply to the courts in order to exercise one's rights.
Plainly the government has stubbornly persisted in its approach of provoking the opposition, of provoking significant segments of civil society in Canada and Quebec. This is completely unacceptable to the opposition.
As I said earlier: fundamentally, there are several measures that should have been included in this economic statement. I would note that we presented a complete plan representing $23 billion over two years. I will now explain the details. In that plan, we explained how these resources could be freed up by cutting bureaucratic spending in various areas. We do not object to rationalizing some spending that does not directly serve the public. However, that calls for a vision of what is useful to taxpayers, to our fellow citizens, and of what is in fact no more than a kind of self-perpetuating loop of spending by the Conservative government, by the federal government.
We therefore prepared a study with Jacques Léonard, the former chair of Quebec's treasury board. Considering all budget items, we identified places where there had in fact been an explosion in bureaucratic spending and where it would be possible to save about $6 billion over two years, by our calculation. As well, there are some financial assets that the government is not currently using. For example, there is about $42 billion in foreign exchange accounts, if I recall correctly. A portion of that money could be used.
We made a series of proposals to the government for freeing up the resources that are needed so that the federal government's debt would not increase. That is what we are proposing in this regard. Certainly there will be a deficit, in technical terms, because there will be more expenditures than revenue, but financial assets will be put to use. There is no need for that increased spending to cause any increase in the federal public debt.
We proposed three types of measures. First, we talked about measures that would not cost the federal government much, if anything at all. For example, eliminating the employment insurance two-week waiting period. The —not the minister of Natural Resources, although last week she responded as though she were—told us that every kind of insurance requires a waiting period or deductible. But we are talking about employment insurance. We are not talking about private insurance, but social insurance. In this context, not only is it wrong to say that all private insurances require either a waiting period or a deductible, but they are not even talking about the same thing; it is like comparing apples and oranges. In this context, social insurance should help people who are fired, laid off or otherwise lose their jobs. It should guarantee them a certain level of income as soon as they have lost their job. That is the principle we were defending, and it is completely reasonable. It does not mean increasing the number of weeks of benefits. Thus, eliminating the waiting period would not cost a cent.
As we have said many times, we want to see employment insurance improved, which might require a longer legislative process. However, it could have been announced during the economic update that the waiting period was eliminated, effective immediately.
Another element that could have been announced is a moratorium on the obligation for retirees to withdraw a certain percentage of their RRIFs. That would give them the chance to get through this period of crisis, during which the market has dropped by 40%, and they could hope that, when they do have to withdraw their savings, those savings would be intact.
The government would not be out much money. There is a short-term cost, of course, but if the government just waits for our retired citizens to replenish the savings in their RRIFs and see the shares they have in them go back up, the taxes that these retirees will pay to the federal government when the money is withdrawn will be greater. Ultimately, there will not be any net cost to the federal government. We proposed a series of measures in this regard that cost the federal government nothing or virtually nothing.
We also suggested a number of measures to help companies that are experiencing difficulties. I remember that there was a graph on page 28 of the economic statement of October 2007 showing that almost all industrial sectors—with the exception of petroleum and coal and chemicals—had been declining since 2005. Regardless of the financial crisis, therefore, the Conservative government should have been intervening for at least a year or a year and a half now to help our manufacturing and forestry sectors. It was urgent a year ago and it is even more urgent to do so now. Not only were these industries in difficulty at a time when the economy as a whole was growing but they are in even greater difficulty today when our principal market—the United States—is partly closed to us.
We expected to see some of the measures that we proposed included in the economic statement. For example, we suggested a modernization fund, we called the Fonds corvée modernisation. If the Conservative government wanted to give it another name, that would have been all right with us. It is similar to the old Corvée-Habitation in the early 1980s in Quebec, when there was another major recession. The Government of Quebec, the unions and the construction employers’ organizations agreed to create a fund to support residential and commercial renovation and construction. Corvée-Habitation proved very successful at a time when the construction industry needed stimulating in Quebec.
We could have the same kind of program, that is to say, a program for companies in the manufacturing and forestry sectors that want to modernize their machinery to be more productive and better equipped when the recession ends—in around 18 months or two years, we hope. We suggested that for every dollar a company invests, the federal government would cover 20¢ of it through this modernization fund. We calculated overall that a $4 billion fund would make it possible for as much as $24 billion to be invested in modernizing our equipment and our companies in the manufacturing sector.
We also proposed, once again, a refundable tax credit for research and development. The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has already unanimously adopted that proposal, and the Standing Committee on Finance also adopted it last spring. This kind of measure would provide support for businesses and sectors that are struggling, allowing them to modernize so they can remain competitive and improve their productivity in order to benefit from the growth that will result from the opening up of new markets.
Businesses would profit from such refundable tax credits. Consider, for example, Tembec, a company that invested another $80 million in research and development. That might not be the case this year, but it was able to do so last year. Since it is not making any profits, it could have benefited from an injection of $80 million to support its research and development efforts. Of course, if it had made $40 million in profits, the tax credit would have been $40 million. This tax credit aims to ensure that even businesses that are not turning a profit could benefit from the support of the federal government and all governments. I think it was an extremely important measure.
How do the Conservatives respond to all our suggestions concerning the economy, businesses and the struggling sectors such as manufacturing and forestry? They say they have reduced taxes on profits. I think it should be easy to understand that lowering taxes on profits does absolutely nothing to help a business that is not making a profit. Basically, all the Conservatives did was allow oil and gas companies and a few other big businesses that are not in trouble, but rather are growing, to benefit from tax cuts, to the detriment of our society as a whole and the sectors in difficulty.
We think it is extremely important to immediately announce very practical measures to help the struggling businesses and sectors, and of course, to support our entire economy.
Now, let us talk about the victims of the crisis. It seems as though the government does not care about them at all. People will be losing their jobs. Older workers will be losing their jobs.
Time and time again, we have asked for a new program like the former program for older worker adjustment. My colleague from has led the charge on this issue. The Liberals abolished the program in 1998, and it was supposed to have been replaced by another program, but that never happened.
Of course, the Conservatives will say that they launched a pilot project or a program to retrain workers over 55. That is not what we are talking about. What we are talking about is a program that would enable older workers subject to massive layoffs to obtain financial support to bridge the gap between employment insurance and their pensions.
Here is an example from my riding. Two plants in Saint-Michel-des-Saints closed their doors simultaneously. They were the largest employers in the area—virtually the only employers, in fact. Both plants belonged to Louisiana-Pacific, and when they shut down, people had to turn to employment insurance.
An Ontario investor wants to buy the two plants, but would only partially restore operations. That means that not all of the former employees would find work. The workers are unionized, and they have a good collective agreement with the CSN, so the most senior workers would get priority. But maybe some of the 58- or 59-year-old workers would be prepared to give younger people a chance at the jobs if they were given a way to reach retirement with dignity.
What are the consequences of the lack of such a program? Younger people, who will not get jobs when the plants reopen, will leave the Saint-Michel-des-Saints region and go to Repentigny, Mascouche or Montreal. That means fewer children in the schools and fewer people shopping at local stores.
The Bloc Québécois has calculated that this kind of measure would not cost much—some $45 million per year—and would support communities affected by closures and mass layoffs by providing people with a decent income after they have been laid off, spurring ongoing economic activity and ensuring a reasonable quality of life for everyone in the community.
As I mentioned, this measure would cost very little and would have allowed the government to give tangible assistance to individuals who have fallen victim to the crisis.
I am also thinking of another proposal made with regard to the guaranteed income supplement. At present, our seniors are concerned about their evaporating savings. Some are even more disadvantaged and are entitled to receive the guaranteed income supplement. The problem is that, from the time when the Liberals were in power, the federal government—and that is still the case with the Conservatives—has done everything in its power to hide this program. Consequently, in Quebec, there are about 60,000 individuals who are entitled to but do not receive the supplement. What we want is quite logical and a simple question of justice.
People who, at some point, realize that they have been entitled to the guaranteed income supplement should receive retroactive payments. Naturally, we should also ensure that the guaranteed income supplement provides them with an acceptable level of income. Formerly we referred to the poverty line, but now we use a more politically correct expression—the low-income cutoff. Let us not deceive ourselves: it means being poor. The guaranteed income supplement should be increased by $110 per month.
Therefore I would like to move an amendment, seconded by the member for .
I move that the motion before us be amended by replacing the words “take note of” with the word “condemn”.
I propose this amendment to the House. I thank the member for for his support. This amendment will surely revolutionize Canadian parliamentary history.
Mr. Speaker, it is fair to say, based on the comments I heard from people in my riding, that Canadians do not want another election. With few exceptions, they would not accept an alternative government and prime minister that were not elected by the people.
Therefore, it is time to move ahead, take a collective breath and find the means and path to move forward in a strong and decisive manner. This, more than anything, is what I believe Canadians want us to do, especially at this delicate time for our economy.
Our newly elected government assembled Parliament quickly, a little over a month after the election. We laid out our agenda in the 40th Parliament in the Speech from the Throne. That agenda received the support of the House last Thursday. On the same day, the delivered his economic and fiscal statement, a statement which informed Canadians about current economic conditions Canada was encountering, a statement that framed the government's intentions for the term ahead on matters of financial priority and plans.
The statement signalled a commitment to deliver additional measures in the months ahead to protect and strengthen our economy. It recognized that these additional measures must be done in concert with the provinces and with our G20 partners.
However, to put that current situation in context, and as I mentioned earlier, Canada is already in a much stronger position of all the G7 countries. We took action early, ahead of the curve, to bring stimulus to Canada's economy. We did this with tax cuts to individuals and businesses, which will total some $31 billion next year, equivalent to 2% of GDP, equivalent to the recommended stimulus that all G20 countries have agreed to implement going forward. These are permanent, sustainable tax reductions that keep money in the pockets of Canadians and Canadian businesses this year, the year after and the year after that.
Since 2006, we have reduced the tax rate on new business investment to the lowest level in the G7 by 2010. We have made historic investments in job-creating infrastructure and invested in science and technology, education and training. On the infrastructure front, we have embarked on the largest infrastructure program since World War II. The depth of these interventions, the ones we have taken and are prepared to take, are unparalleled in the world's advanced economies.
History teaches us that government responses to these types of economic downturns are best to include stimulus in the form of investments like infrastructure, but also to keep credit available for consumers and businesses. Credit is an essential and integral part of the economy for it to function well.
In the last months we took prompt action to keep credit flowing without putting tax dollars at risk. We created liquidity for our financial institutions, building on the solid position our banking system already enjoys in the world.
As the world economy deteriorates, however, there is little doubt that we are going to feel the negative impacts. Our forecasts show us dipping into recession this quarter and perhaps the first quarter of 2009. This is consistent with private sector forecasts also.
Even with these lapses in growth, the first in almost 18 years, Canada has among the best economic outlooks among industrialized countries. Therefore, part of a prudent way forward must also include prioritizing government expenditures in line with the priorities of Canadians. This will give us more capacity to invest in the economic futures of Canadians and our businesses without running up the national mortgage.
That is the approach we have laid out in the throne speech and in the economic fiscal update. It is an agenda to build on the hard-won success of our economy over the last decade or more, build on the sacrifices and determinations that individuals Canadians and innovative Canadian businesses have taken, the ingenuity they have shown to dig in, work hard and improve their lot in life.
At times like this we owe it to them not to squander Canada's strong position, but to stay on the course that has, in fact, delivered that position with fiscal discretion, paying our way and targeting our investments for the long-term competitiveness of the economy. This is how we can ensure Canadians will be afforded the greatest opportunity to earn a good living, support their families and realize their dreams and aspirations.
Let us get to work and do well by all of them now. We have not a moment to lose.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in this chamber. My colleague from spoke eloquently. I have the pleasure of coming from the same region of Ontario as he does. He is an industrious advocate for our region. He has done some incredible work for Lake Simcoe, our regional airport and our local college. It is a pleasure to speak with him.
On the situation of the economic and fiscal statement, it is very important to note the context that we are in, which is there has been an unprecedented deterioration in the global economy in a very short period of time. Nobody could have predicted the full force of the economic crisis. The cascading effects of the international credit crisis were sudden and devastating. Canada has not been immune to this, nor can it be.
Economic projections are much lower than at the time of our last budget. Forecasters now widely expect a recession with negative growth in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009.
We are fortunate to have a government that has taken steps previously, in anticipation of a potential slowdown, to guard against some of the larger effects we have seen in other countries.
In my riding I have seen some of the effects of the slowdown commencing. We have had a few plants inter-source. Faurecia shut down, and those job losses have been damaging to families. It is important to have a government, as we do, that guards against these potential losses and protects business. That has been the approach of our .
We made choices to help put Canada in a stronger economic position. In fact, since 2006, the government has reduced the federal debt by $37 billion, an incredible figure. We have reduced taxes by almost $200 billion over 2007-08. In the following years we will have reduced the tax rate on new business investment, leading to the lowest level in the G7 by 2010.
We have made historic investments in job created infrastructure. We have increased investment in science, technology, education and training. In terms of the infrastructure investment, a lot of governments talk about their support for infrastructure, but when it comes to seeing tangible projects around the country, it has been rare to see. It has been the opposite with our government. We have seen incredible infrastructure projects across the country, and I will mention a few of them.
In our region, three years ago, when the Conservatives were first elected, Barrie had no Go train service. The Conservative government invested $8.3 million to bring it to Barrie.
We have also seen three infrastructure projects around Lake Simcoe, protecting the lake from phosphorous elements. We have also seen a new recycling plant built on Ferndale Drive in Barrie through a federal contribution. This investment in infrastructure is working. It is creating jobs in the region of Simcoe-Muskoka.
Our financial system is considered to be one of the most sound in the world. That statement was made by the World Economic Forum. The International Monetary Fund concluded Canada's financial system was mature, sophisticated, well-managed and able to withstand sizeable shocks. The reason for that is the strong steps taken by our .
We have acted to keep it that way. We have protected its stability so Canadian businesses and families will continue to have access to credit. Businesses need credit to invest or to meet their payrolls. Families need it to take out mortgages and loans. The government took steps to maintain the availability of longer term credit with the purchase of mortgage pools through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Our government has also created the Canada lenders association facility. The facility offers insurance on a temporary basis on wholesale term borrowing by Canadian financial institutions. We have also increased authority for Export Development Canada and the Business Development Bank of Canada. Our sensible approach in Canada is paying off and protecting against the much more significant effects of the slowdown we are seeing in other countries.
I want to mention something that is very important, and I was eager and enthused to hear our say this when he gave the economic statement. The Canada health and social transfers will be protected. Provinces must be able to pay, especially when it comes to some of the largest expenditure items in their budgets such as health care and social services. This wise decision was not taken during the early to mid-1990s when Canada had a slowdown.
When the previous Liberal government was grappling with a difficult financial situation, it chose to balance its books on the backs of the provinces' health care and education budgets.
The effects of that choice were not right for Canada. Canada is still limping from the attacks on health care and education that took place under the previous government.
In my own region, the cuts to health care in Ontario by the Liberal government meant there were cuts across the board. A good example is that medical enrolment was cut at Ontario medical schools. That decision was affected by the cut to the Canada health and social transfer. Ontario has a huge physician shortage. It is acute in my region, and it exists because of those choices.
It is great to see a recognize how important our health care and education systems are in this country. It is reassuring to see they are not going to be touched.
Some of the members in the House are in the same chairs they sat in during the last slowdown. They are now talking about a coalition with the separatists. They might make those same immature choices that occurred during the last slowdown.
Our health care system cannot survive a difficult period again. It cannot afford another Liberal slash. The folks who work in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie certainly cannot afford another vicious slash. It is great to hear that our is prepared to stand up and protect the Canada health and social transfer.
An hon. member: You can thank the NDP and Bob Rae for that.
Mr. Patrick Brown: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it is obviously important to note that the person who presided over the cuts to health care and medical enrolment in Ontario during that period was the member for . Scary as it might be, it would not be surprising if he ended up as a minister in a coalition government with the separatists. He may choose to continue the ravaging of health care in Ontario that he started.
Our economic and fiscal statement is taking steps to help Canadian seniors. Our seniors built this country. They deserve to live with dignity and respect.
Registered retirement income funds, or RRIFs, and their associated withdrawal requirements are of particular concern. Last year our government raised the age limit for converting a registered retirement savings plan and an RRIF from 69 years of age to 71.
This government is proposing a one-time change that would allow RRIF holders to reduce their required minimum withdrawal by 25% for this tax year. For example, an individual who would be required to withdraw $10,000 from an RRIF in 2008 would see that withdrawal reduced to $7,500.
On top of the $2 billion increase to the borrowing authority of Export Development Canada, the has also planned for a $350 million equity injection that would support up to approximately $1.5 billion in increased credit for Canada's export business. That should be applauded by all members in the House who are concerned about Canada's export business.
The export sector has been hit hard by the financial crisis. EDC will now be able to add to the nearly $80 billion in exports and investments it helps make possible for Canadian enterprises, including $4 billion for the auto sector alone.
This government will move forward quickly on the securities regulation front. Our cumbersome and unwieldy system of having 13 security regulators is a glaring flaw in Canada's world-leading approach to promoting financial stability.
This government came to office looking years down the road. Our country is better off today thanks to that approach.
On October 14 Canadians chose a Conservative government to deal with the economic crisis facing the world. I am pretty sure that when Canadians went to the ballot box, they did not pick a Liberal-NDP-Bloc Québécois government. If the rumours are correct, this coup d'état, this non-election, this takeover of democracy, would certainly misrepresent the views of Canadians.
We will deal with these economic challenges in a way that protects Canadian families, in a way that Canadians asked of us and expressed by their opinions at the ballot box. Our plan demonstrates restraint and respect for Canadian tax dollars. It forces governments and politicians to cut back before asking ordinary Canadians to tighten their belts.
The Conservative government's economic plan will reform global finance, ensure sound budgeting, secure jobs for Canadian families and communities, expand investment and trade, and make government more effective.
Mr. Speaker, I usually say that it is great to have the opportunity to speak to some issues but it is with a great deal of sadness that I speak to this take note debate which now states:
That the House take note of the Economic and Fiscal Statement tabled in the House on November 27, 2008.
It is with some sadness because it is what could have been. We could have had a stimulus package, the politics could have been cut out of it and the could have fostered co-operation but none of that happened at a time when the world is in a global economic crisis and Canada, although its foundations are relatively good, thanks to previous governments mainly, will certainly feel the impact of that.
We should have been debating a stimulus package. The PM should have been honest when he spoke of co-operation in the throne speech. We have seen none of that. Instead, we are having a take note debate because the , under his authority, moved back the ways and means motion a week and suspended, to a great extent, the opposition day where there might have been, not necessarily so, but might have been a confidence motion come forward.
We see what is happening here. We saw some of it over the weekend with the propaganda machine that the is so good at fostering. The propaganda machine has started to roll out and change the focus, which is that this is about gaining power when it is really about the economic situation, the stimulus that is needed and the dictatorial and ideological approach by the Prime Minister. I think we will see the propaganda machine big time, and the Prime Minister's initiative to see if he again can rechange the focus.
Under the cover of the economic crisis, the government tried to weaken political dissent in the country. The 's ploy on political party funding, which really makes democracy work and allows the people of Canada a political voice on all sides, was just a ploy to divert attention from the other aspects of the downgrading of government and erosion of rights. Simply put, political funding inclusion in the statement was to provide cover for the other measures he was taking. He attacked collective bargaining by taking away the right to strike and eliminating pay equity was unconscionable but does fit with his personal ideology.
How could anyone even suggest that taking money out of working people's pockets would in any way improve the economy?
The issue is jobs, economic stimulus. It is and should be about the economy, not about taking money out of working people's pockets and taking fundamental Canadian rights away, which is what the economic statement suggested it would do.
Here are the facts on the economic statement. Having made pledges of co-operation at the G20, with the premiers and to the opposition parties, he then unilaterally introduced an economic statement inclusive of the ways and means motion that subverts democracy, attacks public servants, undermines fundamental rights, such as pay equity and collective bargaining, fabricates the financial numbers to show a fictional surplus, targets the sale of the people's assets and fails to provide a stimulus package. That is really what the economic statement did.
Let me turn to another voice on the farcical economic statement that has turned an economic crisis into almost a political crisis.
Don Martin, who is sometimes quite friendly with the Conservative Party of Canada, in a commentary in The Ottawa Citizen on Friday, had this to say:
The true horror wasn't in the let's-pretend numbers contained in the much-dreaded fiscal update from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty. Those were fluffed to give the delusion of deficit-free, rising-revenue fiscal stability, subject to so much imminent change as to be almost meaningless.
It's the nightmarish aftershock from a sneaky, ill-timed, irresponsible government move to eliminate the $1.95 annual per-vote public subsidy to political parties....
Prime Minister Stephen Harper put away his friendly sweater vest and, in an epic mistake that might only be resolved if his Conservative government does an uncharacteristic retreat, pulled on his brass knuckles in an ugly bid to inflict knockout blows on his political rivals.
He went on to say:
While not as politically egregious, the fiscal update was almost as pointless as Harper's move to use his economic update as stealth cover to sabotage his political opponents.
The fiscal update's numbers are mostly carved in cotton, a document of denial because it represents a snapshot of circumstances today without taking into account any downside developments to come.
It's not until you reach the very last page of the background material under the heading of "Risks to Fiscal Projections" where everything in the document is put to a harsh reality check.
Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I can see, extensively, why the members opposite do not want that name mentioned, even if it is in a quote. I accept your point.
Through his economic statement, the shows that he is a stranger to the truth. In his economic statement, the Minister of Finance, as Don Martin said, fudged the numbers to a great extent.
I will now turn to James Bagnall who also wrote an article in The Ottawa Citizen on Friday. He stated:
Such is Canada's strength among the G7 nations that [the Minister of Finance] is forgoing a significant boost to spending on roads and other public works projects, thought necessary by some to offset the deterioration in economic growth.
He went on to say:
In view of the financial turmoil in other countries, it is a remarkable record. And it would be nice to see [the Minister of Finance] give credit where due. Canada's solvency owes a great deal to Jean Chrétien's Liberal government. Because Chrétien acted in the mid-1990s, [the Minister of Finance] has a range of options to combat a declining economy. [The current leader of the official opposition's] Liberals and the rest of the Opposition in Parliament are angry he is not taking advantage of them.
He is talking about the foundation that is due to a previous prime minister and his minister of finance.
Mr. Bagnall goes on to state:
By 2008, federal debt levels had tumbled more than $100 billion. The government is now paying about $30 billion per year on interest payments compared with $46 billion in 1995.
Canada's books are solid at the right time.
However, the failed to recognize why that is so. Later in my remarks I will point out that not only did the government have a good financial foundation in the beginning, it undermined that financial foundation regardless of the propaganda that has been spun today by the when he said that it was their good management of the economy that got them to this stage with decent fundamentals.
The fact is that the decent fundamentals were, as is stated in James Bagnall's article,:
Canada's solvency owes a great deal to Jean Chrétien's Liberal government. Because Chrétien acted in the mid-1990s, [The current finance minister] has a range of options to combat a declining economy.
That is what the should have done. He had a solid foundation. He had a fiscal capacity turned over to him by the previous government. He failed to seize on that capacity and instead played the ideology game. He attacked public servants, pay equity and political dissent in the country, and failed to bring in an economic stimulus package when the ability to do it was in this country better than any other country in the world.
I want to be clear in terms of what the did. In this particular economic statement, the finance minister is a stranger to the truth. In terms of the way this action unfolds, the , through his actions, has shown that he is a Prime Minister who cannot be trusted.
However, today, the tries to buy time and put his propaganda machine into full gear, attacking the idea of a coalition and worse, fabricating the history of how our financial position got to where it is, more stable than other countries in the world. Let me put it this way. Over the last two years, the and the Conservative government have managed to move Canada from being the financial envy of the industrialized world to being on the brink of deficit financing.
What concerns me about the economic statement is that when we go through it, we find that he is projecting small surpluses out into the future, but how is the projecting that into the future? They are going to sell off some Canadian assets. When we ask officials what Canadians assets are going to be sold to get to that $2.6 billion, which happens to match the amount that they need to show a surplus, they cannot say.
Was the right during the election that this is a good time to buy? Is the saying to the rest of the world, “Come to Canada. The auctioneer is the current and we will sell off the people's assets?” They are not the government's assets. They are the people's assets that the is saying he will sell to show a fictional surplus in the budget through his 's economic statement, at fire sale prices.
Now is the time for honesty. Now is the time for the government to be straightforward and lay out its fiscal position, admit to the fact that it has the biggest spending budget in Canadian history, and that taking about $12 billion annually through the GST cut did nothing to stimulate the economy. We are seeing the effects of that. What it sure did was take away the ability of the federal government to do what it ought to do for Canadians in a time of economic turmoil.
In two years, we have moved from being a strong, central government in this country, holding the financial resources to assist in troubled times, to a weakened centre with the cupboards bare.
Why did the not, in his economic statement, admit to that fact? We could have accepted that. That is the reality. This is the time for government and leadership to be honest and straightforward with the fiscal position of the country. We have to assist Canadians in terms of economic stimulus and other programs, to assist our forestry, manufacturing, automotive and farming industries, and to assist our seniors in terms of their pensions. That is what needs to be done and the government has failed in the statement. Whether the direction came from the or straight from the Minister of Finance, I do not know, but what the government tried to do was misrepresent the numbers, play politics, and drive ideology over good economic common sense.
We know that this particular has a record elsewhere, and the province of Ontario has suffered because of the minister’s record in that province. I as a parliamentarian and Canadian do not want to see this Minister of Finance do to Canada what he did to Ontario. That is why the opposition parties are challenging the government in terms of its lack of stimulus and co-operation. The government does not even seem to care if it breaks the law on that side of the House. I spoke on that point in a point of privilege on Thursday morning.
The member says I am looking pathetic. Is there just no law? Is there nothing the government on that side will not do? It cannot even allow democracy to work in terms of elections within farm organizations. It has to try to influence it using franking privileges of the House. Mr. Speaker, that question of privilege is before you. My point is, just like the financial statement in which it fudged the numbers, no law seems to matter in other areas as long as the gets his ideological point of view.
The fact of the matter is, with this economic statement, no longer do we have the prudent planning with financial reserves to partner with industry and provincial governments to fight issues and dilemmas as we did in the past, as we did with SARS, BSE and other issues. Now, we have a global economic crisis that is impacting Canada. It is strange how the finally seemed to realize that after the election, but would not admit it before. The difficulty is that the Government of Canada has been weakening our ability with our financial reserves to be able to take on those challenges all along. Now, when the government has an opportunity in its economic statement to come clean and give this place the right numbers, the honest numbers so that we know what we were dealing with, it fabricates them to a great extent.
In two short years, we have seen the government undermine our opportunities. As I indicated, we have seen a lot of propaganda coming out from the government this weekend, and that will be the kind of game I think it will play over the coming weeks.
Let me close by saying that the government has brought forward a fiscal update that has demonstrated that it clearly has no understanding of nor interest in the growing economic crisis which all other industrialized countries have been responding to and responding to aggressively.
The claims that he can maintain a surplus in the face of this crisis and that, to put it mildly, is a deception. Conservatives ran up a $6 billion deficit and are using it as an excuse to make ideological cuts to essential government services, sell government assets, and cut the paycheques of public servants. It did not have to be this way.
The could have been honest and clear, put forward an economic stimulus package, co-operate with leadership in the G20 as he claimed he would do and did not, co-operate with the premiers as he claimed he would do and did not, and co-operate with the parties in the House which in the throne speech the claimed he would do. It is a sad day when we have this kind of economic statement and ideological agenda put forward by the and the , when we know it could have been so different.
The bottom line is that the has clearly lost trust with us in the House over this measure and I believe he has lost trust with Canadians. It could have been so different.
Mr. Speaker, this is a sad day for Canada. Over the past three days we have heard opposition members of Parliament declare that they will throw aside the results of an election held just six weeks ago and gang up and vote down this Conservative government in a raw and pure lust for power, nothing more. They would replace this government with a coalition of their own making rather than have a government of the people's making. That is what they are talking about, as unbelievable as that sounds to Canadians. The opposition members say that they know better than Canadian voters, who made their decision just six short weeks ago, and because the opposition members know better, they are going to grasp the reins of power and completely push aside the democratic process strictly out of a lust for power, and this in Canada.
There is so much more that could and should be said about this, but what great plan would the proposed unelected government they are talking about put in place to justify, at least in their own power crazed minds, this unprecedented action?
Today, in the little time I have, I will go through the eight points the Liberal finance critic presented as his economic plan once this coup has taken place. I will demonstrate that in fact this and so much more has already been done by the Conservative government. We are not just talking about it. It is not just a plan. Much more has been done. On top of that, other things have been promised. Of course, whatever action is necessary has been pledged by the and the .
The Liberal finance critic, in an interview on the weekend, put forth his eight point plan for the economy, his justification for overthrowing the elected government of this country.
The first point is that he said he would work co-operatively with all members of Parliament from all parties to seek their input as we move forward.
That unelected gang has certainly demonstrated that, have they not? They have demonstrated clearly that they will not work with Conservative members of Parliament. They have demonstrated, in fact, that the members of Parliament they will work with are the separatists, the very people they promised they would not form a coalition with, and the socialists. The leader of the official opposition also said during the election campaign just six weeks ago that he would never form a coalition with the socialists either. That is how they will work with other members of Parliament. That is the first point of the Liberal finance critic.
The second point is that he said he would “work with finance department officials to thoroughly evaluate the financial position of Canada”.
The has already done this and he presented it in last Thursday's economic and fiscal update. His highlights were presented on page 82 of the 132 page document that he presented to this House of Commons. Of course, the opposition did not want to see this document. They did not want to hear about this document, and I know they have not read this document. We know that, for example, the socialists, the New Democrats, got caught in a secret plot to get together with the Bloc to form a coalition with the Liberal official opposition. They did not care what was in the fiscal update. They did not read the 132 page document that lays out the situation.
I am going to highlight and quickly summarize some of the points in this economic and fiscal update.
Number one, the government is planning on balanced budgets for the current year and the next five years, although given the downside risk, balanced budgets cannot be guaranteed.
Number two, weaker economic growth has significantly reduced expected revenues.
The third point in this summary of the fiscal and economic update is that program expenses in 2008-09 are expected to be lower than projected in budget 2008, but in 2009-10 they are expected to be higher than projected in the budget, largely reflecting increased transfers to persons and other levels of government. Public debt charges are lower than projected in both years due to lower projected interest rates.
The fourth point in the summary, a document that the opposition did not bothered to read and did not listen to when presented by the , is after taking into account the actions proposed in this economic and fiscal statement, the projected surplus is $0.8 billion for 2008-09. We know, from the release of the third quarter results today, that they demonstrate a 0.3% surplus for the third quarter. We know we will not be in deficit for this fiscal year. What are opposition members talking about when they are talking about the danger of these deficits? We might be in deficit in future years, depending on the amount of stimulus required. The and the made that abundantly clear.
The fifth point is the tax burden, as measured by total revenue as a share of gross domestic product, which is projected to decline from 15.8% in 2007-08 to 15.2% by 2013-14, its lowest ratio in nearly 50 years.
The sixth point in the summary of the government's fiscal and economic statement, which the members opposite did not bother to listen to or to read, is program expenses are projected to increase temporarily from 13% of GDP in 2007-08 to 13. 4% in 2009-10, reflecting weaker economic growth. Over the medium term, program spending is projected to grow in line with the economy.
The seventh point in the summary is public debt charges are projected to be relatively flat as a share of GDP over the forecast horizon at about 2% before falling to 1.8% in 2013-14.
This is only a summary of the 132 page document presented by the last Thursday, the plan that the opposition members apparently want to throw away and replace it with their eight points.
Furthermore, the details of each of these highlights start on page 84 of the document, if the members opposite care to finally have a look at the document, which is a good piece of work.
The third point that the finance critic for the official opposition said would be part of their eight point plan, is:
—would continue to work with the top economic thinkers and business and labour leaders in Canada and bring them together formally for an immediate summit to determine how far we can go.
The opposition members are talking about just now starting the planning, something our government has been working on for two years. This has already obviously been done. For example, the indicated in his speech, and it is laid out in detail in this 132 page document, which the opposition members do not want to read or hear about, the projections of four private sector organizations. They developed their own fiscal projections based on existing policy. These four organizations, which opposition members dismiss out of hand, are the Conference Board of Canada, the policy and economic analysis program of the University of Toronto, Global Insight and the Centre for Spatial Economics.
The opposition members have said again in speeches today that there are no experts who would agree with what we have put forth. That is clearly wrong, and I know all of us as members of Parliament go to our people, to our business leaders in our own communities and to labour leaders to get their opinions on what should happen in this very difficult time. Again, this third point is another bogus point.
I quote again from the finance critic for the official opposition when he states, “An increase and an acceleration of infrastructure measures”. This is his fourth point. Where has the critic been? Our government has already brought in unprecedented federal infrastructures investments in past budgets. It also promised to accelerate this spending to provide further stimulus.
We are truly ahead of the curve and, in fact, every other top economic power is envious of the actions we have taken and the position in which we are in our country. That is the reality.
For example, our government has put in place a long-term infrastructure plan, the building Canada plan, which provides an historic investment of $33 billion over seven years. That is a lot of stimulus. We have made the gas tax fund permanent, something the former government refused to do. That is ensuring about $2 billion more for infrastructure in 2009-10 and each year thereafter, not temporary spending.
We have established public-private partnership Canada, which is a crown corporation to manage and encourage public-private partnerships. In other words, further investment, government investment, will be leveraged with private investment as well, something, if the finance critic were being honest with himself, I would be very surprised if he would not admit we have done what he said he would do in that fourth point.
In the Speech from the Throne, the government said:
Public infrastructure is vital not only to create jobs for today, but also to create the links between communities and regions to help generate jobs for the future. Our Government is committed to expediting our Building Canada plan to ensure that projects are delivered as quickly as possible.
We had our vote on that after the presented his fiscal and economic update. What was the result of that? It passed in the House, so the members opposite know about this, but they ignore it. The opposition finance critic in his eight points completely ignores it.
I want to talk a little more about some of the things our government has done to deal with the fourth point the opposition finance critic has put in place.
The fact is other leading economies are copying action taken by this government over the past three years, and here is proof. The United Kingdom has just cut its value-added tax, its GST, something this government has done, starting in our very first year in office about three years ago. In the United States, president-elect Obama, who campaigned in his presidential victory for increasing taxes to the American people, now has reversed his position in line with the action taken by the Canadian government. He has decided he will lower taxes to the American people.
All the leading economies are promising more spending on necessary infrastructure and an accelerated spending on infrastructure, something we have been doing over the past three years. We clearly have been ahead of the curve on these things.
The fifth point by the official opposition critic is “an increase in support for Research and Development”. I cannot go through the long list of increases in research and development spending and support for research and development. I will mention only three key items.
As a result of the 2008 and previous two budgets, the government will invest an additional $850 million in 2009-10 alone in support of the objectives of the strategy, including improvements in the scientific research and experimental development tax incentive program. This includes specific investments of $250 million in the automotive sector.
The members opposite stand in the House and say we have done nothing for the automotive sector. This is one example which is critical and is certainly a very positive move, ignored by the opposition finance critic.
Budget 2008 provides $250 million over five years in support of strategic large-scale research and development projects in the automotive sector, which I mentioned earlier, to develop an initiative for greener and more fuel efficient vehicles. On top of this is the $1.5 billion to Genome Canada and various other spending on ongoing research projects.
I will quote number six of the eight point so-called plan laid out by the official opposition finance critic over the weekend:
—working with provinces to improve programs for Canadian workers to train and retrain as part of life-long learning to help them cope with current and future economic realities...
Those members have to know that the government is already, first, investing in education and training by providing long-term support for post-secondary education, introducing the new Canada student grant and modernizing the Canada student loans program. They have chosen to ignore this.
Second, the government is implementing the Canadian experience class and streamlining Canada's immigration system to better respond to the needs of the Canadian labour market.
Third, the government is making significant investments in labour market training so training and skills development opportunities are more widely available to Canadian workers.
The list of other actions we have taken in terms of research and development and training goes on: $1 billion for the community development trust; $3 billion over six years for the new labour market agreements to address the gap in labour market programming; and on and on. I do not have time to read them all.
Quoting his words again, number seven reads:
—working with manufacturing, forestry and auto sector leaders to develop measures that help strengthen their position during this crisis.
Once again, being a leader in the world's strongest economies and far ahead of opposition parties, our government has already done this and has promised to do more in the future.
In budget 2008 our government's actions to implement the “Advantage Canada” framework have delivered important benefits for manufacturers and processors by helping them to better invest and compete, specifically through over $9 billion per year in tax relief by 2012-13, including broad-based tax reductions as well as a temporary accelerated writeoff for investments in machinery and equipment used in manufacturing and processing.
We have provided $1.3 billion per year in additional funding to provinces in budget 2007 for post-secondary education and so on and another $1.5 billion over three years from budgets 2006 and 2007, clearly shooting down the seventh point by the opposition critic.
The eighth point is to “convene an immediate First Ministers conference to partner with provinces”. The has promised to do that and that will happen. Action has been taken already.
All eight points in the Liberal finance critic's statement that he made over the weekend have been acted upon and so much more has been done.
Those members talk about stimulus and this is what the Conservative government has done for stimulus.
Besides all the things I have mentioned, we are actively protecting the Canadian banking system and the Canadian credit market by injecting tens of billions of dollars in liquidity to ensure people in businesses can get the credit they need. This was announced shortly after the election. Up to $75 billion of credit could be made available by banks through CMHC if they so chose to take advantage of that. This provided credit that is much needed by the Canadian people.
I have a motion I would like to move, but before I do that I want to point out briefly the impact of what the irresponsible opposition wants to do.
I was in my constituency over the weekend and met with 300 people at one meeting and 400 at another. They all wanted to talk to me. They cannot believe the opposition would throw aside democracy and for a raw lust for power take over the reins of government.
One of the sad byproducts of this irresponsibility is that in my constituency and across the west, the ugly head of separation is being raised again. I have never seen it at this level before, in boardrooms, in kitchens, in schools, everywhere. That is the result of the opposition's irresponsibility. Those parties do not care.
I see my time is up. I therefore move:
That this question be now put.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for , a fine member of the House of Commons and one who still holds our great trust as whip of our party.
I want to thank the constituents in my riding. I have not had an opportunity to do so since I was elected, and before any further action in the House, I would like to make sure that they know I appreciate their efforts in supporting me in my re-election. It was an interesting election. It was called at the last moment by a government that wanted to avoid the approaching economic crisis. I would also like to thank the , along with members of his cabinet, who took the time to visit my riding and spend some time there the week before the election. I would suggest that people would want to come back when there is not an election going on and try the fishing. They are likely to get a bigger catch that way, and they will probably enjoy themselves tremendously. The Northwest Territories is one of the finest places for fishing in the world.
My riding is a special place. It got attention in the throne speech because we know there is development ahead in our riding. There is ongoing development that has great potential but it also presents great challenges to our population. We need to understand how to regulate that well and how to get the advantage out of that development just as all the other provinces have gotten advantage from development to build their societies in a fashion that fits their population.
We face tremendous challenges of lack of proper infrastructure. We are expected to move into the 21st century of resource extraction, huge developments, but we do not even have proper roads yet. In the spring one of our main highways into the Northwest Territories was shut down for a month because the road base had completely deteriorated. We cannot even upgrade and maintain our roads because we are a small population over huge amounts of territory and those costs are escalating all the time. We in the Northwest Territories understand about the lack of infrastructure and the problems that it presents for many societies just as much as people in cities where overpasses are falling down and proper transit is not yet in place.
We are also experiencing rapidly increasing costs. They have been tempered somewhat by the lowering of the price of crude oil in the world, but that is a temporary aberration. We are sure to return to the point where the cost of living in the north will continue to escalate without the kind of green infrastructure and investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency that can make a reasonable and affordable society in the north.
We are also facing tremendous impact from climate change. I had an opportunity to have discussions with people who are studying permafrost. Over the eight years they have been studying permafrost in the southern Dehcho region of the Northwest Territories, there has been a 20% decline in the permafrost within the boreal forest in that region. That changes many things when it comes to infrastructure, road building, and many of the other things we need to accomplish in the north. It also points to the tremendous changes we are experiencing in the north and the continuing great need to take hold of those issues.
Corporations working in the north are experiencing downturns. We are seeing layoffs in our diamond mines, especially in the expansion of the existing mines. We are seeing layoffs with many of the subcontractors who are working for these mines. We are seeing layoffs in the exploration companies that are looking for new resources across northern Canada. We are seeing layoffs in the aviation industry. This is a key indicator of the kind of activity that is going on. This is taking place right across northern Canada.
We are seeing a downturn in the economy. It is one that poses very much a problem for the future of Canada. Without exploration or opportunities to understand what we have, we are going to find ourselves falling behind in our main business which is resource development. That is what we do in the north and is likely what we will continue to do.
The corporations do not need tax cuts. They need infrastructure investment which would reduce their costs, reduce their environmental footprints, and make a better place for the north.
The economic and fiscal statement failed to meet the needs that are in front of us. Why? It is misleadingly optimistic and does not address the real issues ahead of us. We are in a resource-based export economy. Commodities have just suffered their largest downturn in over 30 years. This happened within the last four months. The impact on manufacturing and forestry in the country was ongoing and continues for a number of years, and matches the more immediate economic impacts that we are seeing in every other industrialized country.
The true problem in our economy will come after many other economies that have more secondary production have seen downturns. Our downturn is yet to come, so we must be very careful with what we are doing.
The contraction in the world economy will hit us harder and will be more apparent in the months to come. This does not come forth in the document before us. It does not speak to the future of the country. It makes these projections based on error.
We need our own plan for reinvestment. The government cannot leave this to the private sector through its tax cuts and expect that the kind of infrastructure that is required for the growth of all of us will take place. We need to change as well our directions in infrastructure. We need to make investments in infrastructure that will lead us to a greener future. We cannot look on this downturn as simply a matter of surviving and moving on with the same economy that we have. We need to change. We need to move ahead with a new vision for the country.
What else is wrong with the statement? Many of the issues presented in the economic statement were of a partisan, combative and petty nature. While some of these have been withdrawn, they leave all of us in the opposition assured of our opinion that the Conservative administration cannot be trusted.
How can we trust the government for a substantive, effective and timely economic intervention in a budget that is going to come a little later on when it presents this kind of case to us today, when it shows its nature, to cloud the very important economic issues that are in front of us with these petty little games that it has chosen to play? I think all Conservative members understand what I am talking about.
We need a Parliament that works, a Parliament that can deliver results and that can bring us all onside. We do not need this kind of action in Parliament. I saw this for the last two and a half years. I saw the bullying that went on. I saw the way that the government developed its majority through badgering rather than through co-operation. I do not see this changing. I was hoping for change when I came into this Parliament. I was hoping that the government would give us real direction for co-operation. Instead, what we saw was more of the same, the same kind of treatment that made us tired of this place in the last Parliament, made us realize that instead of co-operating, we were into confrontation on so many issues. Really, as Canadians, we had no reason for that.
We need an attitude change in this Parliament and the only way that we, as the opposition right now, can accomplish that is the direction in which we are moving. If we can do this, we can deliver results for the country. We can make a difference for the country. Without it, it will be more of the same.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the people of my riding of Acadie—Bathurst for having given me their support and confidence for the fifth time. My gratitude is sincere.
I would also like to thank the member for , who is sharing his time with me so that I can talk about the economic and fiscal statement.
When I was first elected in 1997, I was elected for one reason, as many Canadians know. At the time, I was elected because previous governments had, since 1986, chosen to transfer money from the employment insurance fund to the consolidated revenue fund. Once they started transferring money from the employment insurance fund to the consolidated revenue fund, the EI fund became the government's cash cow, as I have always said.
At the time, governments could not resist the idea of using the surplus in the EI fund to balance the budget and achieve a zero deficit at workers' expense. After that, it was hard to make them listen to reason and put the employment insurance system back to the way it was.
During the most recent election campaign, I was a candidate, and I also watched the news. I remember hearing the current of Canada, who was also Prime Minister during the campaign, tell Canadians that they should not be scared of him, as some people suggested. The Prime Minister added that even if he were to be re-elected as the head of a minority government, he would work with Parliament and the opposition. That is what he said during the election campaign.
Personally, I got the feeling that he was trying to lull people into believing that they had nothing to fear from him as Prime Minister, but I did not believe him.
The day after the election, the Prime Minister said on the radio that Canadians and Quebeckers had chosen a minority government that now promised to go back to Ottawa and work with the opposition for the good of our country. Today the Conservatives are asking what the opposition wants. They say the only party that has given the government any ideas on the economic statement is the Bloc Québécois. Everybody knows, though, that the leader of the New Democratic Party, as well as the leader of the Liberal Party, met with the and shared his ideas about the economy. In one way or another, everyone has shared his or her views on the economic statement, whether in discussions or on a piece of paper.
I would go even further. In view of the fact that the Prime Minister and the are leading a minority government, did they go to the opposition to find out what it wanted to see in the economic statement?
The day after the election, the Prime Minister said that he would work with the opposition. That is not what has happened though. It is just like what happened two and a half years ago. Since January 2006, it has always been his way or the highway. If the opposition did not like his way of governing, it could just go ahead and trigger an election and vote against the Conservatives.
This time, though, I think he pushed the wrong button. There were two buttons, and he wanted a repeat of what happened over the last two years: my way or the highway. He never thought in his economic statement about the problems facing Canada, all the closings of paper mills, whether in Newcastle, New Brunswick, or in Miramichi, whether in Bathurst, Dalhousie, New Richmond or Abitibi, whether in northern Ontario or in the Prince George region. He never thought of that. No. The Conservatives said instead in their economic and financial statement that they would freeze the salaries of public servants and take away their right to strike.
What did these people do to the government? Why take the right to strike away from the people who serve our country?
There is something else too: they are going to look into selling our crown corporations. They do not say which ones. Is it Canada Post, which does such a good job in our country? Is it Radio-Canada? Is it the CBC? Are those the ones they want to sell or privatize? Is that the direction they are going but do not want to tell us? For my part, I am not interested in that.
I am more interested in having crown corporations and people who represent the citizens of Canada. Air Canada was sold, and that was a mistake. CN was sold, and that was a mistake. Petro-Canada was sold, and in my view, that too was a mistake. What do the Conservatives want? They do not believe the federal government has responsibilities toward the people of Canada. They think the federal government is here just to pass legislation. That is what they think, but it gets worse.
What does putting 14-year-olds in prison have to do with an economic and financial statement? When the Prime Minister rose to deliver his address in response to the Speech from the Throne, already he was getting into controversial waters: he was talking about putting 14-year-olds behind bars. What does that have to do with today's economy? We know perfectly well that instead of putting our young people behind bars, we should be investing in the regions, we should be investing in our municipalities, we should be investing in rural regions and making sure that our young people do not end up behind bars. But none of that is there, there are no investments. Instead, we are going to build prisons and lock our young people up in them. I am not in favour of that.
The infrastructure of our municipalities is suffering today. Bridges have to be built all across Canada. In Quebec, for example, there were problems in Laval: a bridge collapsed and people lost their lives, and so today bridges have to replaced everywhere. Why would we not be investing in our people and our infrastructure, instead of simply handing money to this bank and that bank? Why are we not committing funds to build infrastructure, to create jobs and to make sure that our people can earn money and pay their debts, their mortgages and so on? Why not, Mr. Speaker? Why are we not moving in that direction instead?
On the weekend, I was looking at a table of all the countries that have allocated money because of the economic slowdown. The United States has done it, England has done it, France has also done it. Canada: zero, absolutely nothing.
What is being done to provide assistance for childcare? You will ask me whether this is something that should be in an economic or financial statement. Yes, because today, both parents have to work. We have to have childcare spaces so we can send our children there, where they will be cared for safely by people who are well paid. Instead, what the Conservatives chose to do was to give every family $100 per child. And then, in March, when people file their tax returns, they will be giving that money back to the government. That is what the Conservatives have done. That is not the system people want.
I am proud and hopeful that we will move in the right direction, and that the majority in this Parliament will be able to lead this country, once and for all, with the welfare of all Canadians and working men and women and ordinary people in mind, and not just for those who make millions of dollars at the expense of the poor.
Mr. Speaker, I know a lot of that reaction was not in response to the nuggets of wisdom that are about to unfold in this home, in this House. I say home because it is a House that belongs to all Canadians and they look to all of us, whether we are on the government side or the opposition side, for solutions to the problems that they individually face and that they collectively must resolve.
What are some of those problems that they were looking to see us resolve? We had an economic update shortly after an election that gave each member in the House a mandate to seek solutions. Members will notice that I said every member of the House. It is an obligation that is incumbent upon each and every one of us, one that can weaken not shirk. We cannot shirk the responsibility to seek those solutions.
The government has a very special privilege and that is to make the first offer, to suggest a direction in which we must go. It does not have to do it by groping in the dark, no. It has the examples that the rest of the world has put before it over the course of the last several months.
We need go no further than immediately to the south of us where the Americans chose Barack Obama because he promised to come forward with a solution or a series of solutions, a package that all Americans could buy into, not only domestically and individually but as those who would want to lead the world toward recovery, to assume the mantle of leadership that was so lacking in the world.
I might add, as a bit of a side note, that the Americans were not without culpability on their own. They share some of the reasons for the conditions we currently face today. However, governments get elected to seek solutions and to offer them up. In fact, the government proposes and this House disposes. The House was prepared to dispose with issues that would give an indication of the way forward.
We had an economic statement given to us last week in the context of the American example of $700 billion in stimulus to address the financial crises that they faced. The president-elect came forward with an indication that there would be an additional $800 billion in infrastructure dollars in order to address the issues of the day. The Americans were prepared to spend $1.5 trillion in order to kickstart an economy that is slowly but surely descending to depths that Americans cannot afford and that Canadians and others around the world cannot brook.
The Europeans followed suit very quickly and collectively. Members will notice how quickly they came to a decision. Disparate governments from disparate and diverse countries immediately came forward with $300 billion euros, which is like $450 billion, for infrastructure acceleration in all countries.
What was our response? Mr. Speaker, I know you are looking for that word “tepid”, but I dare say that if you were to describe our responses as tepid, then you would really have put your toes in scalding water because the word “tepid” is an exaggeration.
Was it a cool response? No, it was not. In fact, there was no response at all by the government. The economic update offered no solutions. I see that the is paying attention. I know he will agree with me that China is looking at the situation worldwide and so dependent on manufacturing that it can absolutely not afford to stand by idly. It offered a $600 billion infrastructure acceleration program and manufacturing assistance program in order to meet the challenges of the day.
We have not talked about social programs. We have only talked about the reaction of governments, some elected, some not, to an emerging situation that the has described as emerging, critical and requiring some essential decisions that would be to the advantage of our collective good.
Therefore, we wait and we wait with bated breath.
Last week we heard an economic update that said absolutely nothing in terms of proactive decisions in order to kick-start the economy, to get engaged in manufacturing, to address the issues of financial shortfalls and, in fact, to address the issues of standard and quality of living of Canadians everywhere.
Worse, there was a deliberate decision in the economic update to demonstrate not only a stinginess of thought, but a certain lethargy of cranial capacity to address the issues that relate to each and every one of us as members of Parliament in our capacity to do the work that Canadians elected us to do.
There can only be one response to such dismissive behaviour in the House by members of Parliament to a government that will not—