Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the economic and fiscal update introduced last week in the House. Before I do, I want to take a moment, as this is my first opportunity to speak in the House, to thank the people of Oak Ridges—Markham for placing their trust in me and for allowing me to be their voice here in Parliament.
I would also like to take a moment to thank my campaign manager, Mathew Ellis, and my deputy campaign manager, Marissa Steiner, for their hard work during the campaign. In addition I thank my campaign chair, Gayle Climpson-Kennedy, my CFO Stephen Wilkinson, and the core group of over 200 volunteers who helped me get the message out and helped me win Oak Ridges—Markham. I am truly indebted to them for all their hard work.
Finally, I give the biggest thanks of all to my wife, Melanie, and our two daughters, Natalie and Olivia, whose support has been spectacular. My second daughter was born on October 4 at Markham Stouffville Hospital, during the election campaign. I would also like to thank the doctors, Dr. Arnold at Markham Stouffville Hospital, and the entire staff for the extraordinary care they gave to my family.
My wife has been with me through everything in politics, through thick and thin. She has always been my best friend and my best supporter. I cannot thank her enough.
is a huge riding. It is actually the largest riding in Canada in terms of population. Leading up to and during the last election, I spent many months talking to the people of Oak Ridges—Markham. We talked about everything, including health care and the environment, specifically focusing on the economy.
My campaign focused on the economy. I told the people of Oak Ridges—Markham some of the good things that we had done in the economy. They listened to my message and they decided that the government was on the right track, and they elected me. They understood that since taking office, we have given Canada strong government and that we have made substantial changes to our economy that has left Canada in the strongest position of all industrialized nations.
Since 2006 this government has reduced the federal debt by $37 billion. It has reduced taxes by almost $200 billion. It has reduced taxes on new businesses. It has and is making massive investments in infrastructure, science and technology, and we have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. This government is also providing the economy with the essential tools that it needs to remain strong and to grow in the future.
When we were cutting taxes as a government, how were the Liberal opposition members voting? When we cut taxes for people, they voted against it, if they showed up at all. When we invested in infrastructure across Canada, how did they vote? They voted against it and they did not show up. When we invested in the armed forces, the brave men and women of this country who are fighting to preserve Canadian freedoms, who are showcasing Canada abroad, how did they vote? They voted against it.
We invested in the environment, including in my riding. The came to my riding of Oak Ridges—Markham and announced that through partnership with Ducks Unlimited we were going to secure naturally significant lands, including the Happy Valley Forest in King. How did they vote? They did not show up and they voted against it.
While we were telling Canadians that we believed in them, that we were going to cut taxes so that they could invest in their future, in their family's future, and we were cutting taxes so that they could invest in business, the members opposite were telling Canadians that they could not be trusted to invest in their families. Indeed, the Liberals were saying that if the government cut taxes, Canadians would spend it on pop, beer and chips, that they just could not be trusted to manage their own affairs.
We on this side of the House have much more faith in the people of Canada. We know that Canadians need more money in their pockets so that they can invest in their future. That is what we have been doing since we have been in government.
I am extraordinarily proud to be part of a government that has done that for all Canadians. We have been working long and hard, even before this crisis hit the mainstream media, to make the investments that I mentioned before and to make additional investments that will ensure that our economy remains strong moving forward.
Over the past few months we have met with our G20 partners. We have worked closely with our provincial premiers and consulted with business, both big and small, to chart a course to protect the Canadian economy. We consulted Canadians on October 14.
Canadians overwhelmingly decided that the , the , and this government were on the right track to make the necessary changes to the economy to ensure that we remained strong and that we would come out of this world economic crisis better than any other country. They opted for stability. They opted for a measured approach that would not lead Canada into devastation in the years ahead but would make us stronger.
We have acted quickly and confidently, and have always put the bests interests of our nation first. We are moving to restore a greater liquidity to our banking system to guarantee Canadians access to credit. We are reviewing all government spending so that we can provide the maximum investment back into our economy without falling back into structural deficits. We are providing stable funding to our provincial partners. We are providing historic levels of funding for infrastructure. We are moving to stabilize our pension system and give Canadian seniors the support they need in the years ahead.
Over the next few weeks, we will continue to consult with premiers and our G20 partners to chart the appropriate course to maintain our economy and provide all Canadians with security and peace of mind.
The people of Ontario remember all too well what a Liberal democratic alliance party means to an economy. Ontario remembers the disastrous results between 1985 and 1995; what the people of Ontario refer to as the “lost decade”. Ontario taxpayers, unfortunately, remember the highest business taxes. They remember the highest personal income taxes. They remember record business failures and massive levels of debt. It was close to $50 billion in debt in only four years. They remember a deficit of $11 billion.
In fact, under the Liberal democratic alliance in Ontario, Ontario was spending $1 million more an hour than it was taking in. Imagine that, $1 million more an hour than it was taking in, without a plan to get out of a hole. It was cutting health care spending and the number of hospital beds, and there were record levels of unemployment. This is the record of a Liberal democratic alliance party when in power in Ontario. The people of Ontario remember this all to well and the people of Ontario massively rejected that on October 14.
What did the Liberals do when they were in power in the nineties? They shifted the burden onto the provinces. There were over $25 billion in cuts to the Canada health and social transfer. They did not work with our provincial partners to make sure that they could sustain such massive cuts. They unilaterally cut, forcing the provinces to find savings in health care, to find savings in social assistance. There had to be cuts in health and education. Why? Because the members on that side of the House were not interested in cutting back their entitlements. They were not interested in finding out how government could work better. Their solution was to transfer to another level of government. Canadians again massively rejected that, and installed a government that actually cared about Canadians and understood how finances work in this country.
At a time when the world economy is in crisis and stability is required, what do the opposition members want to do? They want to set aside the results of the last election and install a government led by a prime minister who was massively rejected by the people of this country. They then want to change the government in four months when they have selected yet another leader; again, another leader not elected by the people of Canada. They want to raise taxes. They want to take some of the NDP policies and increase taxes to businesses at a time when they cannot afford to do so. They want to give a blank cheque to the members of the Bloc Québécois to decide the future of this country.
The people of my riding and the people of Canada do not agree with that approach. They overwhelmingly selected a government that was charting the right course. That is what I hear from the people in my riding.
What are the people saying about the proposed new Liberal democratic alliance party? I have been absolutely inundated with emails and telephone calls from people in my riding. I would like to give members a little sample of what the people are saying to me. Dr. John Cocker wrote: “Just to let you know I am outraged by the action of the opposition to grab power. I feel that [the Prime Minister] is on the right track. Everyone I have spoken to feels the same way”.
A constituent from Newmarket said:
|| If the NDP and the Liberal Parties are allowed to force out the Conservatives now, this Canadian among thousands will totally lose faith in the Democratic Process in this country. What's more, an overthrow of the current government in these challenging and troubled times looks like a real recipe for the very fiscal disaster that the Opposition Parties claim [that they want to resolve].
A constituent from Markham said:
|| All I know is that the possible coalition between the Liberal, NDP and Bloc is completely ridiculous. MPs were voted for so that they would put their locals first and actually try to look out for us. This is not for the people it is petty politics that does our economy and country absolutely no good.
A constituent from Stouffville said:
|| How do I voice my opinion strongly to the government of Canada that if I wanted an inept leader like [the leader of the Liberal Party], I would have voted for him!!!!!
A constituent from Richmond Hill wrote:
|| We the judges, THE PEOPLE OF CANADA, voted him [the Prime Minister] in and most importantly did NOT vote [the leader of the Liberal Party] in.
Is this how democracy works? No, it is not.
Another constituent from Markham wrote:
|| I am writing to express my concern over the undemocratic backroom dealings that are being done in parliament. With the economy the way it is and the global environment, [this] high tension, global recession, we need a government to run the country, NOT a bunch of backroom dealings of people who believe they know better than the results of the election--
A resident in Schomberg wrote to me:
|| You are my MP and I am begging you and [the Prime Minister] not to leave us in the hands of [the leader of the Liberal Party] and [the leader of the New Democratic Party].
Another constituent from Markham wrote:
|| I believe such a coalition would be unproductive, distract from the country's real problems and nothing more than political posturing by the Liberals, NDP and any other party choosing to join.
A constituent from Nobleton wrote:
|| I don't want the NDP to look after my finances. I don't want the Bloc making decisions for Canada. I don't want the Liberals with their leadership fiasco and infighting to govern Canada. None of them are ready collectively or separately. AGAIN, NONE OF THEM WERE ELECTED.
That is what the people of my riding are saying. That is just a small sampling of the over 500 emails and telephone calls that I have received since the signing of that document yesterday. What else are people saying about this?
I will refer to some of the previous debates by the member for :
|| The fundamental point about the NDP is that those members do not understand economics. They never understood economics and they never will understand economics. In effect, the NDP is mired in a time warp in the 1960s.... It is mired in the 1960s. It has no vision of wealth creation and no clue how to go about it should that be its desire, which is why that party will remain a marginal protest party.
He went on to say:
|| At the latest NDP convention, a motion was put forward by the leader's riding association that Canada should get out of NAFTA and out of the WTO. Those members also want Canada to get out of Norad, by the way. The NDP's official policy since 1997 has been that Canada should get out of NAFTA. That was delusional, clueless, irresponsible policy and it is still characterized as the Neanderthal economic thinking of the New Democratic Party.... The NDP members would have constructed a wall around Canada to keep everything out, a wall so high that it would be reminiscent of the wall then prevailing in communist Albania.
That was said by the member for about his new coalition friends. What else did he say? He stated:
||--to the federal NDP, which has never been a government and never will be a government, and whose basic problem is that it may have a heart, as it knows how to redistribute income, but it does not have a brain.
Imagine, the member for is now prepared to sit in alliance--
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois. I would like to begin by thanking the people of Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel for once again entrusting me with the task of representing them here in the House of Commons, with a majority of just over 15,000 votes. I extend my warmest thanks to them.
Obviously, I believe I am entitled to speak on their behalf, like any member of any party in this House. Even though ours is a sovereigntist party, it has always respected democracy and our position within Parliament. We have always respected the way Parliament works and the Constitution that still binds us to Canada and will continue to bind us until we have our own country, something we will achieve legally and democratically.
Today, we are talking about an economic statement that is part of the democratic process in Canada. There was a Speech from the Throne, and the had the job of giving this economic statement. The government had to make choices. In an economic statement, the government can simply describe the economic situation, or it can announce new programs and new investments. The Conservative government made a choice. In the midst of an economic crisis, it chose not to take the bull by the horns and not to attack the economic crisis directly.
That is why the Bloc Québécois is the only party that proposed an investment plan—worth $23 billion—and it has never hidden that fact. We made these proposals in light of what was happening with the global economy. The European Union tabled a $200 billion development and investment plan. The United States tabled an $800 billion development and investment plan. The Bloc Québécois proposed a $23 billion plan, which the Government of Canada can afford. We never hid that fact. This plan was meant to help the poorest members of our society, people who have lost their jobs, seniors, women, people in need, as well as businesses. I will describe this plan during my speech.
Our goal was to deal with the crisis, which the had referred to when he called the election. Why did he go against his own fixed election date legislation, which would have had us going to the polls in October 2009? Because there was a global economic crisis.
The problem, as we saw during the election campaign, is that the Conservative ideology will always be there. There has been no solution to the problem of the forestry and manufacturing crisis, which started well before the monetary crisis we are seeing today. The free market was given free rein. That is what the economic statement is proposing once again: laissez-faire, once more. The economic statement plans to deregulate investments. One of the measures in this economic statement would allow foreign companies to buy Canadian businesses. They want to give the market free rein, and they say it will regulate itself. Well that will not happen, and that is the tragedy.
The other countries in the world have understood this, and that is why Europe has invested $200 billion, and the Americans have invested $800 billion. Those are the facts of the matter. Right-wing Conservative ideology has seen its day.
That is why the Bloc Québécois cannot support a government that does not understand the problems people are experiencing. Bloc Québécois MPs are there on the ground. The men and women who are my colleagues, who were elected in the last election campaign, know this, because every day and every weekend they are there talking to the people. We know the tragedy that is happening in the forestry and manufacturing regions. We keep on top of the current economic crisis that is preventing our constituents from buying what they would like to buy for Christmas. We understand this. We are therefore in a better position than a lot of others are to say in this House that we have to invest in concrete measures. The reason the Bloc Québécois cannot support the statement is quite simply because the Conservative government has presented an ideological right-wing statement. We are considering the best interests of the Quebec nation. What that nation wants right now is for the economic crisis to be resolved the way the other countries in the world are doing.
That is quite simply it. That is why yesterday you surely saw, as we did, that three opposition parties signed an agreement to deny this government any further legitimacy. The Canadian federalist system is governed by English law. When the government no longer has the confidence of the House, it cannot continue to govern. Those are the facts. The Conservatives can rant on in this House until they are blue in the face, but their economic statement was not up to the task, and yesterday, with the stroke of a pen, the opposition parties decided to try to form a coalition government, as the Canadian constitution allows them to do. In my opinion, it will be much more effective at tackling the economic crisis than the present government.
So the facts of the matter are simple. The Governor General will have to settle it, because as of yesterday this Conservative government no longer has a legitimate claim to govern. It is as simple as that, and that is how it is. That is how democracy, how British parliamentarianism, says it is. That is why the sovereignists in the Bloc Québécois, in the best interests of the Quebec nation, have allied with the Liberal and New Democratic federalists. The Conservative Party can call us all the names it likes, but the fact remains that they are still federasts. The Conservatives decided to do what suited them, flying in the face of the entire British parliamentary system.
The should ask the Governor General today to turn the government over to the coalition formed yesterday. That is the reality. The Conservatives will go to any lengths over the next few days to keep trying to persuade us that they are right. They should have tabled an economic statement that was respectful of the public will. The Bloc Québécois had extended its hand. We submitted a program proposing $23 billion in investments. The congratulated us on it and thanked us, but there was no sign of it in the economic statement.
We worked hard, therefore, to try to deal with the situation, to extend our hand with a plan for $23 billion in investments to counter the economic crisis, as they are doing in Europe and the United States. But the Conservative Party decided to ignore these desires. That was its choice, but now it should respect the democratic choice, and very simply, under the British parliamentary system, a government that no longer enjoys the confidence of the House cannot continue in office. That is the reality. It does not have anything to do with the popular vote. The popular vote elects representatives to sit in this House, and these representatives must have confidence in the government. As of yesterday, they no longer have that confidence.
Why? Because the economic statement we are discussing today does not reflect what the majority of the people represented by us, the members of this House in all the political parties. We want to resolve the economic crisis quickly. We just want to deal with it. The right-wing Conservative ideology is laissez-faire—just let the economy take its course and clean up the mess afterwards. That is not a solution, and it is not the approach that other countries in the world have taken to deal with this unprecedented crisis. We have not seen anything like it since the Great Depression of the 1920s. That is the reality.
We are facing a new situation. No two economic crises are ever the same. This is a new approach and it is the one that the governments of the world have decided to take in order to tackle this crisis. They are going to inject cash into their economies to try to get through the recession. If we had done the same for the forestry sector, we would not be talking about a crisis there today. It would have been taken care of. The Conservatives decided not to deal with the crisis in forestry, and it is just piled up now on top of the banking crisis, the credit crisis, and so forth. We are going from crisis to crisis. We are making the problem bigger and nothing will get done under this government. It is finished.
The Conservatives should realize this and give the opposition a chance. It is not easy to tackle an economic crisis and decide as a party to form a coalition in the House of Commons with other parties in order to get through the crisis and try to deal with the fate of the weakest and most deprived members of our society. That is not easy. The Conservatives decided to do nothing, and that is their prerogative. But let them stand aside and allow the coalition to do it because we believe that in a wealthy country like Canada we will be able to overcome this crisis and help the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society.
That ideological choice was not just laissez-faire economics. The Conservatives also decided to attack workers' rights by suspending the right to strike and to pay equity. They used the economic crisis to deal with some ideological issues that are dear to activists' hearts.
Conservative members will no doubt have plenty of letters and emails to show us. Naturally. There is a right-wing economics movement that wants to suspend workers' rights, send women back home, suspend women's rights in the workplace, and so on. That is an ideological choice, but it is not the choice that the majority of Canadians made. The Conservative members have to accept that. We believe that we have every right to rise in this House, because Quebec pays its share of sales and income taxes to the federal government.
My background is in municipal affairs. I was president of the Union des municipalités du Québec from 1997 to 2000, and I was a mayor for 17 years. In our geopolitical context, there are three levels of government: municipal, provincial and federal.
I always feel disillusioned when I see that the federal government—which has the most money because it gets over 50% of all income and sales taxes collected in Canada—does not do anything about health care because the provinces are responsible for health care. It does nothing about education because the provinces are responsible for education. It does nothing about transportation. It looks after a few bridges, but does nothing about the roads because, for the most part, structures and infrastructure are under provincial or municipal jurisdiction.
One might expect the federal government to implement this program because it collects most of the sales and income taxes. One might also expect the federal government to transfer money into a major program to help maintain infrastructure managed by other levels of government. But seeing how the Department of Canadian Heritage maintains its own heritage buildings, it is clear that the government cannot even look after its own buildings.
One might expect the federal government to participate in the management of buildings administered by the provinces, because it collects most of the taxes. That is the kind of thing the Bloc Québécois is calling for. The Bloc is calling for investments in infrastructure to be accelerated and for gas tax transfers for infrastructure to be increased from 3¢ to 5¢ right away, rather than in 2010. Most economists support this kind of one-off assistance. Investment in infrastructure is one way to help address the economic crisis. It would give people jobs, upgrade buildings and get our workers back to work in order to help the economy.
The Bloc Québécois also proposed eliminating the two week waiting period in the employment insurance program, a program that has been paid for entirely by employers and employees since 1996. The federal government does not contribute a single cent. Once again, while this economic crisis is causing people to lose their jobs, the people affected need their money right away, especially since the holiday season is just around the corner. Yet they continue to be penalized by the two week waiting period. The minister rose in this House to tell us that it was standard practice, since private insurance also has a waiting period. But when you think about it, employment insurance is paid for entirely by employers and employees.
Furthermore, if employers and employees were asked if they would like to see the waiting period eliminated, they would immediately agree. Even employers that must shut down parts of their businesses could not oppose the idea of their employees receiving their benefits immediately, instead of having to face two weeks with no income. Losing one's job can cause family problems. This is a minor request that would not cost the government very much, but it was denied.
The same goes for a program for older worker adjustment, which would provide workers aged 55 and older who lose their jobs with a basic income until they receive their pension. It would also bridge the salary gap for workers who find work that does not pay as well, until they reach the age of 65. This measure would cost $45 million, but was rejected by the Conservative government. The Bloc Québécois has been proposing many things to help the least fortunate in our society, but these suggestions have all been rejected by the Conservative Party with its right-wing ideology.
The Conservatives are attacking workers' rights at a time when the unemployment rate in Alberta is 3%. That amounts to full employment and there is even a shortage of workers. In Alberta, employers are forced to offer higher wages if they hope to find employees. That may be normal there but it is not the case in the rest of Canada. The navel-gazing must stop. The Conservative Party must stop viewing Alberta as the centre of the universe. They have to be able to see what is happening throughout Canada. The Bloc Québécois has always been open-minded in its work in Parliament.
We are sensitive to the fate of men and women who have paid and continue to pay taxes, to those who are losing their jobs and need assistance, to the manufacturing and forestry sectors that are in trouble and need help getting through the crisis. Over the past five years, the mining sector also went through tough times, but it recovered. The economy is cyclical. We all know that. The way to help a sector is to support it in times of crisis until the economy recovers. Then we can help another sector. That is how it is. That is why governments are elected.
The Conservative government came to power. It is a minority government and it knows very well that to have the confidence of the House it must at least have the support of a majority of members. It must therefore obtain the support of another political party and propose measures acceptable to the opponents it faced in the last election. That is the fact of the matter.
If the Conservatives do not accept it, that is a political choice. They are, moreover, dealing today with the result: the agreement signed yesterday by the opposition parties. The specific purpose of that agreement is to have a new government, one that will be far more open—a left-of-centre government—in compensation for the recent years of right-of-centre economics that have prevailed in Canada. Incidentally, that is not the approach that has been adopted by other countries in the world. Europe has decided to be left of centre, as have the Americans. It is a choice.
An unprecedented crisis is looming all over the world. We need a government that listens to the public, and listens to business, in order to try to solve the problems. We must not just wait for them to solve themselves. That is the reality. This is a democratic choice that must be respected by the Conservative members of this House. The British parliamentary system requires the Governor General to be the one to settle this, and in my opinion, the sooner, the better.
I have been saying this right from the start. Since yesterday, since the very moment that the three opposition parties signed the agreement for a coalition government, that party has no more legitimacy in this House. It must go to the Governor General. Doing anything else would just be an attempt to buy some time and stay in power. According to the rules of the British parliamentary system, for a government to govern it must have the confidence of this House. When that historic agreement was signed, that confidence was lost.
That leads me back to the economic statement. The entire situation has arisen out of the fact that the and his lacked judgment. The main conclusion history will reach from this is that we had a and a who, for purely partisan reasons, and because they believed that the Liberals were not just on their knees but totally down and out, decided to just steamroller over them.
They found out that the Liberal Party still had a backbone. They are also well aware that the Bloc Québécois has always had a backbone. In fact, that is why we are so strong here. Quebeckers elected a majority of members from the Bloc Québécois, because this party stands tall. We will never be afraid of anyone, anywhere, anytime. We will defend the rights of Quebeckers in this Parliament as long as we pay taxes to Ottawa. We are not afraid to do so, and we never will be. We have always respected democracy in this Parliament, and we will continue to do so as long as we are here.
Obviously, we will support this coalition government until June 2010. We are in the midst of an economic crisis, and it is in the best interests of the Quebec nation that we take action to deal with this economic crisis for the sake of the men and women who have lost their jobs, who could lose their jobs or who could have financial problems. We must do what all the other countries of the world are doing. The European Union has invested $200 billion, and the United States, $800 billion. The Bloc Québécois proposed injecting $23 billion into the economy. That is what is needed. This is no time to be dogmatic and embrace a right-wing ideology. Yet the Conservatives are doing just that and are determined to take a laissez-faire approach to this crisis. That did not work for the forestry crisis, which still exists. Now, the automotive industry is in an unprecedented crisis caused by a credit crunch. I hope the Conservatives will realize that it is time they respected democracy.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to you and the House that it is a privilege and an honour to participate in the debate on the government's fiscal update. However, it comes with a sincere amount of disappointment when we see the events that are starting to unfold and have unfolded over the last few days. We learn now that this coup was likely developing during the election. It is unbelievable what is happening in Canada.
Today is the first time I have stood in the House since I was elected on October 14. I want to thank the constituents of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex in the great province of Ontario for re-electing me to represent them in this wonderful place, this inspiring House.
It is my second term serving in Parliament, which does not just happen by chance. It happens with a lot of support. It certainly comes from the support of all the people who went to the ballot box on October 14. I want to thank them for the incredible support they gave me, with a stronger mandate than the first time. I want to thank the constituents for all the things they did throughout the last three years to guide me in helping me serve them. That is what the people in the House are here to do.
I certainly want to thank my family. We do a lot of things in this place and we sometimes think it is just us but that is never the case. I am thankful for the support of my family, particularly my wife, Barb, for all the love and support she has given me during the last three years.
One thing I am always aware of is that not everybody voted for me. However, I am continually aware, in my journey down the political road, whether it is municipal or otherwise, that I am here to represent all constituents regardless of what party they represent. I believe each of us in the House is responsible to do that and I know most members take that seriously. As a result, I will continue, to the best of my ability, to represent the constituents in my riding who elected me to his honourable position.
My riding of Lambton—Kent—Middlesex is in the southwestern part of Ontario. It is a little bigger than Prince Edward Island. It is an incredibly diverse riding made up of small businesses, corporations, agriculture and family businesses. Many are doing well but some are not. In fact, some are not doing well at all.
We never have the right words, at least I do not, when I come across an individual who has just received a pink slip or lost a job on an assembly line or an administrator who has just been let go from a company after being part of the building of that company for a number of years. Even with my agriculture background, I do not have the right words for farm families who, when they go under, lose everything. They do not just lose their business, their house or their car, they lose their business and their house. I do not have the right words for those who go through that or are forced to shut down.
We are in a global crisis. According to the hundreds and hundreds of emails and phone calls that have come into my office and my constituency, Canadians are glad they are Canadians and that they live in Canada. They are glad they have had a Conservative government that some 16 months ago understood, beginning in 2006, started to recognize we had to take some initiatives to stimulate an economy in Canada. They are so thankful we started that and that we have come into this global crisis much stronger than any other country. They also believe we will come out of it sooner and stronger because of that.
We started a stimulus package with the banks to reinforce the fact that we had the soundest financial system in the world. A few months ago the papers were full of talk about how strong Canada was, that we were the envy of the world because we had taken strong steps to ensure we had a secure banking system that would be there for Canadians and businesses in the present and the future.
We will not underpin or bail out the banks with billions of taxpayer dollars. We do not have to do that. Other countries around the world are putting billions of dollars into their banking systems. Ordinary men and women, who get up every day to go to work, are questioning why they are now paying funds to help people who put themselves in trouble, who helped put their countries in the situation in which they find themselves.
The Conservative Party took that initiative. We cut taxes for all Canadians, for families, for businesses, family businesses and small businesses, corporations and seniors, which is unprecedented. We did that because we wanted Canadians to stimulate the economy.
People stimulate the economy. Governments do not. Our belief is if we put this money back into the hands of Canadians, they will stimulate the economy and they are.
The opposition parties have a view that they will tax Canadians, take the money from them and let the bureaucracy take its percentage out and distribute it. They will make the decision on what is good for Canadians.
We do not believe that. When Canadians get money in their pockets, they will stimulate the economy. Why and how? We paid down the debt by $37 billion in just under three years. Unbelievably, we still have a surplus though it may be small. We have lowered taxes, as I mentioned, for all Canadians. We have balanced our budgets.
When I talked about paying down taxes of $200 billion, no other G7 country can speak of that. In fact, many G20 countries do not have that same circumstance. We have become the envy of the world in a world-wide crisis. Why? Because our and the had the vision and the foresight beyond what other countries could see. They did that at least 16 months ago when we started this process.
Everyone on that side of the House, if they came to vote, voted against it. We do not believe in taxing companies, which we want to be successful, when they are struggling.
We have given hope to Canadians and businesses in this critical time. Every initiative that we have taken to help Canadians, Canadian families and businesses, the people across the way have voted against.
They signed this great coalition paper yesterday. The coalition will be led by a leader who did not have the respect of his own people, as members of Parliament, to show up to vote in the last Parliament. It is unbelievable.
We put into place expenditure management. If one talks to businesses, one knows that is what to do. When times get a little tighter, it is not always about the revenue; it is about the expenditures. This government understands businesses. We understand what families go through with their home budgets when they have to trim. Not only do they look at revenues, they look at what can be cut. We brought in a expenditure management tool. All those spendthrift people on the other side voted against that.
We wanted to help manufacturing and industry. How did we do that? We went to them through committees and as individuals. They told us what they needed to be competitive. They told us, we did not tell them. They told us they needed to be competitive in the tax structure. They told us they needed to be competitive in the writedown of their large equipment. They told us they needed to get rid of the paper burden. They told us we needed to reinvest. They told us we needed to invest more in innovation, research and technology. We did that, at their request.
The people on the other side of the House, after agreeing to it in committee, voted against it. They voted against industry, against manufacturing, against lower taxes and against research and development. It is unbelievable.
We committed to rebuild our military. When we came into government in 2006, our military was in a shambles because the Liberal Party had decimated it. The Liberals made a commitment to send our men and women in harm's way, without investing in proper equipment and training, without giving them the moral support that a government should. We had to reinvest, and we did that. The parties across the way voted against that.
In the last number of years before I came here, I was in municipal politics. I had the great honour of being the mayor of our municipality of Middlesex Centre. At that time, the funding for projects continually evaporated as the federal government downloaded onto the provincial governments, which forced them to download onto their municipal governments. To stimulate our economy, we need to reinvest back into the infrastructure of our country. We need to reinvest in our municipalities and provinces.
We have just put $33 billion into infrastructure. We have done that to help build the strength of the country, to get the construction industry fired up again. In fact, in this coming year, the committed dollars will be doubled. We have given the full rebate of 5¢ a litre of gas, which will come into effect in 2009. We have given back the full GST that municipalities wanted.
I can hear it now. The Liberals will be saying that this is exactly what they were going to do. They are always going to do it and they never get it done.
The Conservative government had to come in and ensure that assets and moneys flowed back to our municipalities, for which they are grateful.
We talk about agriculture. My background is in agriculture. One of the things we are so blessed with is a strong agriculture industry. We are blessed with some of the greatest land. We can feed our nation and other countries. We are blessed with individuals and farm families, all devoting their time and energy without ever looking at a clock to see when the day starts and ends. They run on margins of high investment and low margins. It is not only a way of life, which it used to be, but they have a love for the industry. They are incredibly fine businessmen and women or, in some cases, they would not be successful.
The government doubled the agriculture budget, which had been sliced by the last government. What did the opposition parties do? They voted against agriculture, against farm families and against the sovereignty that is so important to our country. They also voted against giving our agriculture industry the underpinning and the safety net protection it needed.
The government put systems in place for our seniors. We have done an unprecedented amount more for seniors than any other government. We have accelerated the programs under VIP and the bill of rights for veterans. For our seniors who built this country, we have done more to help them live a good successful life.
We talked in our economic update about the RRIFs and pension income splitting for seniors. We dealt with the guaranteed income supplements in our budget. Everyone on that side of the House voted against it. They voted against seniors. They voted against those people who helped build the country so all Canadians could enjoy our freedoms and blessings.
The government introduced an economic stimulus. The opposition unanimously agreed with the throne speech. About two days later, the government presented an economic update, which is not a budget. I do not think the opposition has figured out the difference between an economic update and a budget as of yet.
A couple of days later the opposition said that it would vote down the economic statement, before a budget came into place, and would form a ludicrous undemocratic coalition, a coup for the Canadian people to accept.
The coalition, interestingly, is made up of socialists and separatists, who want to break the country apart. They will have the veto on every vote and all legislation. The coalition will also be run by a leader who has not been accepted by anybody, not the Canadian people or the party he represents. He will be there for a few months. Then he will be kicked him out and somebody new will take over in May. This coalition will represent Canada on the international stage. It is unbelievable.
I will wrap up by saying that I hope Canadians get to see the value of our economic statement, I hope they get to see the value of our economic update, and I hope they get to judge a Conservative budget on January 27. Why? Because that is democracy and that is what Canadians deserve.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking some people.
I thank my wife Susan and my two young boys, Drew and James, who are six and four, for allowing me to be here and to try to do some good on behalf of the residents of Brampton West and for all Canadians.
I also thank and give special recognition to my parents. My father is an immigrant from Poland. He came here in his mid-20s with nothing in his pocket and without knowing the language. He worked in a factory during the day and attended school at night. My mother’s family came to Canada as refugees after the war. It was a very proud day when they saw their first-born sworn in as a member of Parliament, and I want to recognize them for their contributions.
I thank the residents of Brampton West. It was a difficult election. For those of you who do not know, we had a nomination meeting one week into the election campaign. We were 10 days behind. The Conservative candidate had been knocking on doors since April 2007, yet the residents of Brampton West still trusted me and elected me. I am very appreciative to them for that and I thank them.
Why am I here? Like many of the members, I am here and should be here to try to do some good. In this period of time, that really means trying to cooperate as much as possible. At events during my first few days here, I spoke to some of my Conservative colleagues on the other side. Some of those colleagues are here. I essentially said that we need to try to cooperate. We are here in an economic crisis. We need to try to work together and get through this for the benefit of Canadians.
There is good news and bad news in that regard. The good news is that we have received some cooperation from the NDP and the Bloc. The bad news is that we have received none from the Conservatives.
Let us look at what happened with the Conservatives. Rather than try to put forward any stimulus package whatsoever to attempt to help the economy, as has been occurring in all G20 countries, the Conservatives gave us political ideology, period. I am going to go into some of those details, but you have all heard them. It takes something special to see the opposition parties giving each other standing ovations in the face of a document such as the Conservatives’ economic update. It is unbelievable. The Conservatives attacked democracy, unions and women. There was absolutely no stimulus for the economy. Why? We still do not know. It was certainly not for the benefit of Canadians.
We need to review where we were before dealing with the economic update and what needs to be done now. We need to review where we were before the economic crisis, because Canadians need to always remember where this de facto Reform Party government put them before the economic crisis took place. It was essentially fiscal mismanagement. It took just three years, which is a very short period of time.
Everybody remembers the good old Liberal days when we had a great economy, lots of jobs and budget surpluses. It was a wonderful period of time. Heckling does not change the fact that the Conservatives have put us into a fiscal nightmare. In just three years, they increased federal spending by $40 billion. They squandered a $13 billion surplus. It would sound good to have that surplus now, would it not? Do they not wish they had it? Canadians certainly do.
The Conservatives entirely eliminated the $3 billion contingency reserve fund for rainy days. Well, we have a rainy day. There is no money, at least not without going into serious deficit, which is where the Conservatives have put us. They also had a misguided tax policy, despite the fact that virtually all non-right-wing economists were saying not to do it and that all these various changes were misguided. They did it anyway, and we are left in this economic mess.
Look at all these pre-crisis indicators. These are objective statistics, not party positions.
In 2007, before the crisis, exports fell by 1.4% and are projected to fall further again this year.
The Bank of Canada and private sector forecasts are continually downgrading Canada's economic growth and are projecting it to keep falling.
Statistics Canada objectively indicated that Canada has gone from the best economy in the G7 to the worst. That was before this crisis. We had already slipped behind the U.S. economy before this crisis in terms of productivity. It had nothing to do with this crisis. This is what the Conservatives did.
A Statistics Canada survey of the labour force shows that the Canadian economy lost 55,000 jobs just in July. That is approaching 300,000 jobs since the became leader of the country. Let us think about that. That happened before this crisis.
The Conservatives were so desperate to pretend this was not true that during the election campaign, to make it look as though things were rosy, they actually said that approximately 12,000 jobs had been created in September. However, they refused to tell everyone that those 12,000 jobs were all directly related to the election campaign, an election they had called after breaking their own law about not having an election, and an election which cost $300 million. I congratulate them for creating 12,000 jobs in September, all because of their broken promise, and on spending $300 million. Those jobs are now gone.
Inflation rose to 3.1% before the crisis.
A June 2000 report released by the Conference Board of Canada showed that Canada's economic standing was slipping in the world. That too was before the crisis. Again, before the crisis, in the international rankings, Canada's economic standing fell to 11th among the 17 most advanced economies, 15th in terms of productivity performance, and 13th in terms of innovation.
The Conservative government implemented ineffective tax cuts before the crisis.
On spending, the Conservatives like to criticize and pretend that it is the Liberals who spend. I remind members that the Liberals are the ones who balanced the budget. When the Liberal Party was in power, Canada had economic growth. Tory times are tough times.
In 2005-06 federal expenses were $175.2 billion. The Conservatives increased that to $218.3 billion, a 24.6% increase from when they took office. What is there to show for it? A great economy? Of course not.
And now for some objective information, Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, provided a report on November 20, 2008. This refers to before the crisis. He clearly indicated that Conservative fiscal policy decisions are largely to blame for what is occurring. He said, “The weak fiscal performance to date is largely attributable to previous”--having nothing to do with this crisis--“policy decisions as opposed to weakened economic conditions, since nominal GDP is higher than expected in budget 2008”. According to this objective person, all of these problems and the deficit are the result of Conservative policies not having anything to do with this crisis. In short, it is a made in Canada deficit, full stop.
We all need to remember that during the recent election campaign the promised he would never run a deficit. According to the tapes of the English language debate, he said never, no matter what. He said on CTV on October 12, 2008, “We are not running a deficit. We have planned a realistic scenario. We have got conservative budget estimates. We are not going into deficit”. He did not say that he was lacking information. Those comments were not accurate.
We are now in a circumstance where Canada's not so new Conservative government is creating Canada's absolutely brand new deficit and recession.
The Conservatives caused this mess. They will try to blame it on the worldwide economic crisis but we have to look at all these statistics, and Canadians will have to always remember that we got here first because of the Conservatives. It had nothing to do with the worldwide crisis. The fact that the Conservatives put us in this mess first limits their ability to fix the crisis, which is why they are not providing quick stimulus. We need to wonder when Mr. Page might fear for his job, just as Linda Keene did when she crossed them. But, maybe that will not happen now.
Our offices are being flooded by pleas for help from Canadians. They want us to do something now. I have picked one letter, which is from Noel Dimech, a resident in my riding. He is an employee of John Logan Chevrolet. He talked about the automotive sector. Everybody has to remember that there are 600,000 direct jobs in Canada which are dependent upon the automotive sector, and then there are all the spinoffs that can be imagined from direct jobs. He said:
|| I need to stress that inaction is not an option. The automotive industry represents 1 in 7 jobs in this country - a higher per cent than in the U.S. The choice is between supporting the auto sector with repayable loans so it can lead Canada out of this recession or denying support which could result in a severe depression impacting hundreds of thousands of jobs and communities in this country.
I say to Noel and to Canadians in general that help is coming. It is really only days away now, as soon as the government is defeated.
In comparison, let us look around the world in terms of what is happening. Everybody talks about stimulus packages. The G20 agreed upon it. The , when he was at the conference, said he would do it. That was the right thing for him to say, but he did not follow through in the economic update.
These are the very statistics as to the commitments that have been made around the world: the United States, $1,859 billion; China, $726 billion; the U.K., $518 billion; Japan, $341 billion; Germany, $264 billion; and France, $93 billion. These are all economic stimulus packages to assist in this worldwide crisis. Canada in the economic statement was at minus $4.3 billion. It is not exactly the best stimulus package when we are cutting.
What was needed is common sense. In the update we needed two things. We needed a package to stimulate the economy in a significant amount and fast. We should look at the lessons learned from the Depression. Economists who studied it essentially said that the mistakes made were the raising of protectionist barriers, the increasing of taxes to keep balanced budgets, and there was no stimulus for the economy and if there was, it was not done in significant amounts. What we need is a significant stimulus package and we need it fast. We have not seen anything from the government on that. The second thing that was needed in the update was an assistance package for the workers who are about to lose or have already lost their jobs, to make sure that they do not suffer through this. Reducing the EI wait times is one example. We have heard nothing from the government about how it would help people. What we did hear is how it would not allow unions to strike, how it would attack pay equity, how it would attack democracy and that is it.
If we were to wait for the budget, then what? Should companies continue to go bankrupt and out of business? Is that what we are waiting for? Do we want to make it even worse and then the government will do something? We need to do it now.
Six hundred thousand Canadians work in the auto sector. What are we waiting for, one of the big three to go bankrupt and then we will do something? Seriously, if that is what the government members want, they should go on the record and say that.
Let us look at this economic update. What can we call it? Meanspirited? Yes. Irresponsible? Absolutely. What did it do? It cut spending. It has the fiction of no deficit through asset sales which have not been booked, which if they do take place at all, it will be in a coarse seller's market. Is the government going to get top dollar these days for all the assets it wants to sell? Of course not. It is the worst time to sell these assets and they are not even on the books.
In essence, what we have in Canada for the next few days is the last bastion of right-wing Conservative ideology for economic policy, frankly, in the western world. We have a de facto Reform Party government for a few more days.
Rather than party politics, let us look at the comments of objective people.
Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns stated, “The fiscal update...will suck $6 billion out of the economy next year”. That is not a stimulus package. He said, “Under the current circumstances, it's unusual, to say the least, given that almost every other major country in the world is moving to stimulate the economy.”
Let us turn to Steve Murphy, an economist at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management. His detailed forecast was actually central to the government's forecasts in terms of these numbers. His actual quote in terms of the numbers that the government used to put in its fiscal update is as follows, and remember that he is somebody the Conservatives relied upon. He said, in referring to this de facto Reform Party government, “My cynicism has reached new heights. What else can I say?”
Don Martin said, “There's a thin line between a government putting on its best face to stare down a gloomy situation and practising fiscal delusion. With the fiscal update, [the] Finance Minister...crossed the line”.
We have this mess. The government's solution is to pretend it is going to sell assets, to continue with the fiction of a balanced budget, and to cut money from the economy, to offer no stimulus and to attack the vulnerable. Well, the government's days are numbered.
There is a $3 billion building Canada fund for infrastructure. Why is it not being used? The government says to wait until the budget in January. What about infrastructure? Why can something not be done about that now? Most municipalities have various projects on the books. All they need is to hear that yes, the government is paying, and they will start. That is immediate economic stimulus. What are the Conservatives waiting for? They do not need to study that. Everybody has known about the infrastructure deficit for a long time. That infrastructure work could be happening right now. There is no need to wait until the end of January.
As for employment insurance, the government could help people who have become unemployed through no fault of their own by eliminating the two-week waiting time. This would also stimulate the economy. The government should do that. There is nothing in the update for the forestry and auto sectors.
Essentially, we have a mess that was created by the Conservative government before this economic crisis occurred. We have an economic crisis that has come on top of that and the government is not in a position to do anything about it because it had already overspent and mismanaged the economy. It is not prepared to do it because of its own ideology. That is it; enough of that.
An article in the Toronto Star stated:
|| Unfortunately, addressing the global economic crisis seems to have been the last thing on the Conservatives' mind. Yesterday's statement contained some symbolic cuts in the perks and expenses of ministers and mandarins, and limits to the pay of MPs and public servants....
|| But there were no significant new stimulative measures to counter the economic slowdown. We are told that these will come later in the annual budget, two months or more from now.
Members are taunting across the aisle and saying to wait, but--
Mr. Speaker, it is once more a pleasure to rise in the House and talk about what is happening in Canada. This is a historical week. Political games have reached such a height that Canadians are just shaking their heads, wondering what in the hell is going on here, wondering whether those guys over there have lost their senses.
The unholy alliance made by those three parties is just unbelievable. Just look at the economic records they are trying to bring forward. One of the parties wanted the carbon tax. Only two months ago, it went out there and said it was going to raise the GST. The leader of one party said that another party's economic platform was a disaster for Canada. So what happened? Only two months ago it was saying this to the Canadian public when its members were on the campaign trail. Did that party lie to the Canadian public? Did it mislead the Canadian public?
If the members of this unholy alliance really think they have a plan, they should go to the Canadian public to get their approval and see if the Canadian public will accept this unholy alliance sitting there. They should be doing that, not making backroom deals to which Canadians are saying no.
As they continue along this path, the Canadian public will speak out because, at the end of the day, it is the Canadian public who has been taken to the cleaners by this unholy alliance of the three parties. It is unbelievable what they have been saying.
Yesterday, on television screens across Canada, we saw the leader of this party, who will be resigning in May; we saw the leader of a separatist party who got up and said this is a great day for the separatist movement in Canada; and we saw the leader of a party, who at the end of the day would never have been in government if he were running on his own, cooking up deals to come in here with an economic policy that, according to one of the other leader's, was a disaster for Canada.
Now, let us talk about what is happening in Canada.
There is a global recession. This government has acted even before there was talk of stimulus packages. We cut the GST. We cut business taxes, which the opposition did not agree with, to stimulate the economy, and it is ongoing. The went to the G20. He was told Canada was sound financially. We are working on that.
When the of Canada came back from the G20, he held a conference with the premiers and told them what he was doing and the premiers agreed.
As a matter of fact, the is talking now with the Liberal government in Toronto to work with the auto industry. Individuals are speaking about bringing forward a stimulus package. We want to know what the auto industry is doing today. The auto industry presented its plans in the U.S. Congress.
The U.S. asked the auto industry to present a recovery plan, which it has done today. The same thing should apply here in Canada. There should be a recovery plan. We cannot act unilaterally. This is an integrated economy. What the U.S. will do, we will help. The went to the U.S. to see how we could save those jobs. We all understand that. But at the end of the day, the big three have to come forward and say what are they going to do with the money they are going to receive, what their plan is to come out of this thing. That is a responsible way to run this country.
In the fiscal statement, the talked about helping seniors. What have we done for seniors? That was in the economic plan. We came up with income splitting. There has been a tremendous amount of activity by this government.
The issue is that this government was addressing these issues before. This unholy alliance wants to do it now. Those members want to come up with a stimulus package. Where were they during the election campaign?
A stimulus package from members of a separatist party whose only interest is to break up the country?
The Liberals want to make a deal with those guys so their leader can go down in the history books as the only leader who got defeated but who became the prime minister. Even though they only received 26% of the popular vote, they want to stand and say that they have the right to rule and their leader has the right to be the prime minister of this country.
What happened to the voice of the people of Canada? If the opposition parties really want to form this unholy coalition, they should go to the voters. If they have the guts, they should go to the voters, not cook up backroom deals and talk nonsense that there is no stimulus. We created a stimulus package that will be permanent.
I want to tell Canadians that this unholy alliance will raise business taxes and raise the GST. Maybe the will even get his carbon tax put back on, which all Canadians rejected.
Have those members thought about this? As far as the Liberal members are concerned, they were left out in the cold and now they are slowly realizing what is going on. The winner in this will be the separatist party. It is unbelievable. I have been here for 10 years and I have seen the separatists fight. They were going down but now they will be the biggest winners, thanks to the Liberal Party. The Bloc would never have formed the government and will never form the government but it is now coming through the back door. We should ask the Canadian people about that.
He ran a campaign as an NDP candidate. What did the NDP get? It did not get in. It was shunned. It is shrinking and yet it wants to form a government of the unholy alliance with the separatist party. What are the opposition members talking about? Canadians will teach them a lesson because they lied to Canadians during the last election.
Do the opposition members have an economic plan? Let them go to Canadians with their carbon tax. They should not try to bring something through the back door to Canadians. They should not try to bring the carbon tax to Canadians. They should not bring that economic stimulus that will be a disaster for this country. If Canadians had wanted that unholy alliance, they would have elected them and given them more seats.
I am sorry that I am a little agitated about this whole thing but this is unprecedented. It is a coup and it is undemocratic. They do not have any moral authority. They are only playing with the procedure in this House to try to grab power. They should be ashamed of themselves. They do not represent their own parties. They represent the people of Canada. They were elected here by the people of Canada and right now they have displayed the most unholy game with the people of Canada. They can be in power if they want but it will be short-term. History already shows that. When the people of Canada are lied to, they will come back. They will not listen to the games the opposition has been playing behind the scenes.
During the last 10 years, the was on intergovernmental affairs. He brought forward the clarity bill and fought those guys sitting over there to bring it in. Those guys are no friends to them. The only agenda they have is to break up this country. Since when did they become friends? Do the Liberals not realize that the Bloc members have only one agenda and that is to break up the country and yet they will be sitting over there until 2011? That is unbelievable.
The Liberals will need to run and seek cover because at the end of the day the people of Canada, the provincial governments and everybody will speak when they hear what has come from this unholy alliance. This is the scariest thing that has ever happened in Canada.
I go around the world teaching democracy and other things and there are military coups in other countries. However, on a procedural basis, the opposition parties did not listen to the voices of the people of Canada and that will come back to haunt them.
I wish them good luck but we and the people of Canada will speak.
Mr. Speaker, I would first like to congratulate you. I already did so personally yesterday. I congratulate you on your appointment as Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole. I know that it is a great honour and a great responsibility, and I congratulate you. I would also like to say that I hope you will continue trying, as you have already started doing, to maintain a minimum of decorum in this House. God knows we need it.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the voters of Laval—Les Îles who have elected me for the fifth time. And I would like to congratulate the other members of this House on their victories, whatever their party, whether they be in opposition on this side of the House or on the government side opposite.
Today I would like to talk about the economic statement delivered by the last Thursday. Two things in that statement really shocked me. First, the Minister of Finance refused to accept that there was already a recession in Canada. Second, the Minister of Finance did not see fit to present a solution from the government in his economic statement, despite the number of companies, be they small, medium or large, that were starting to go bankrupt or were at risk of bankruptcy and were laying off their employees, who are now jobless.
It shocked me and it shocked the people in my riding, as it did the entire population of Quebec. I organized an event in my riding, Laval—Les Îles, last Sunday afternoon. Obviously we discussed politics, and people asked me how it could be that the government, as represented by the , had not brought forward any solution to the problem that exists not only in Laval and in Quebec but everywhere in Canada.
In Laval—Les Îles, a lot of people come from other countries and have recently arrived in Canada. Many of those people have kept ties with their country of origin and do a lot of work in importing and exporting. Those people are afraid that their businesses will go bankrupt. The was silent about this.
In terms of the economy, we have had no response. The Conservatives tell us there is no problem in Canada and our institutions are very safe. I hope so, but we always have to be prepared. When we, the Liberals, were in government, we got rid of the deficit and tried to set a little aside as a cushion, precisely to be prepared for this kind of disaster. When the Conservatives came to power, the cushion virtually completely disappeared, and the help we had prepared precisely to protect us against this kind of disaster is almost nonexistent now. What we are seeing here is a Conservative government that has both wasted the public funds that could have protected Canadian industries and failed to present any solution to try to help people who are without jobs, not because they did not want to go out and work, but because their businesses are no longer viable. The owners of those businesses, whether in the forestry industry or in the auto industry, can no longer sustain their budgets.
A long time ago, people used to say, “What is good for General Motors is good for the country.” That applied to the United States. Now, though, General Motors is almost completely bankrupt, and that may have a very serious impact on us here in Canada. From an economic standpoint, the statement is shocking and does not meet the needs of Canadians.
I was also extremely disappointed by another social measure, and that is the elimination of the right to strike.
The right to strike has been a fundamental right in our society for decades. It is not socialist or communist, it is simply Canadian. Men and women in Canada fought hard for such protection before, during and especially after the 1920s and 1930s, and they won it. Last Thursday evening, the Conservative government intended to eliminate federal public servants' right to strike.
The Conservatives may reverse their decision, as the President of the Treasury Board said yesterday during question period. They are going back on their decision, but the damage is done. Clearly, if the Conservative government had been elected with a majority, not a minority, in the House of Commons, federal public servants would have lost the right to strike. The Conservatives were forced to back down when all the members of the opposition fought back and said they could not let that happen. Because the Conservative government was afraid of losing the battle, it decided to back down and say it was giving public servants back the right to strike. I am very happy about this, but we need to look at what happened and realize that if the opposition had not reacted so strongly and so quickly, the Conservatives would have taken away federal public servants' right to strike.
Next, I will speak about the issue of women and employment equity. Let us not forget that employment equity is not only employment equity for women, it is for society as a whole. This means that it is for all kinds of minorities, be they people with a physical disability, visible minorities, or Canada's first nations people, who have an important role to play in our Canadian society.
The Conservative government decided, in its economic statement, that these minorities would no longer have the right to take their grievances before the courts. Once again they are being deprived of a right that has been fought for, not just by minorities, but by all Canadians. This right is in the process of being taken away from them. All of the opposition, not just the official opposition, rose up in arms over this. My colleagues in the other two parties spoke about this. The President of the Treasury Board has backed down and says he wants to respect employment equity and will revisit the decision. I am very pleased by that, but what would have happened if there had not been a hue and cry? We would be back with what the Conservatives first presented. This is another warning to be on our guard, because we see what would have happened if the Conservatives had a majority.
This descent toward anti-democracy did not just start last Thursday evening. I have seen it coming for a long time, two and half years at least—nearly three—or in other words ever since the Conservatives have been the government. I will give a little anecdote here if I may.
Two years ago, I was the official languages critic for the official opposition and therefore a member of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. We were discussing the Conservative government's abolition of the court challenges program. For those who may not know exactly what this is, the court challenges program provided funds to language or other minorities so that they might defend their rights before the courts, possibly even against the Government of Canada. Minorities were given the tools to do so. The Conservative government came along and abolished the program entirely. This was at the official languages committee.
We soon found out by calling witnesses that the francophone minorities in Canada were stunned because they realized they had lost the financial muscle to protect their linguistic rights in Canada. It was not just francophones outside Quebec but the anglophone minority in Quebec too.
We fought hard in committee. What happened, then, to finish the story? On the day when we were supposed to put the finishing touches on the report, in which the three opposition parties asked, suggested and recommended that the minister reverse his decision on the court challenges program, what did we find when we arrived at 9 o’clock in the morning? The doors were locked. In other words, the chair of this House committee prevented the committee members from meeting. He slammed the door in our faces.
That was an insult, I think, not just to the members of Parliament but to the people of Canada who elected us. The chair did not have the right to do that. He did not have the right to decide to lock the doors. Why did he do it? I think it was simply because that meant we could no longer table a document in the House recommending that the minister change his mind about the court challenges program.
Why am I telling this story? Simply to explain to the House that the attack on democracy started a long time ago. The governing party across the aisle has long been doing everything it could, cutting here, cutting there. Rather than saying openly what it is doing, it often tries to hide it. There is always a way, though, to review things and find out what is going on.
I want to tell the House, therefore, that the presentation last Thursday night was totally unacceptable. It disappointed not only the opposition members, of course, but the people we represent as well. As I said earlier, I met more than 200 of them on Sunday, and they sure had a lot to say.
We believe that it is important and even absolutely essential to offer the people of Canada another possible kind of government. Why? It is not because we want to make a grab for power but because we think we have solutions to the economic crisis. We also have solutions to the anti-democratic practices of the governing Conservatives.
Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time I have had a chance to rise in this Parliament, I want to take this opportunity to thank my lovely wife and two daughters for their continued support over five elections. I also thank the 91,000 constituents in the country’s number one riding, Sackville—Eastern Shore for their undying support of the work they have asked me to do.
The people have entrusted me once again, for the fifth time since 1997, to represent the issues of the riding and of Nova Scotia in Ottawa. They have asked me to bring their concerns to Ottawa and not necessarily Ottawa’s concerns to Nova Scotia. I also thank the many people on our campaign team who volunteered and assisted us in the last federal election.
Politics is made up of human beings, whether they are right wing, left wing, in the centre, Conservative, Liberal, Bloc, NDP, Green or whatever they may be. However, there is one person in the House of Commons who in many ways rises above all the partisanship games we now play.
There is a wonderful article, on page 28 of today’s Hill Times, about the member for . At three o’clock, a book about his life will be released. Every time I see the hon. member from the Winnipeg area, I am inspired by his enthusiasm, tenacity and desire to overcome hurdles that befell him at such a young age. For a quadriplegic man to rise as a parliamentary secretary in the House of Commons, regardless of the party he represents, is a testimony to not only he and his family, but to his heart, his love and his faith in God. I congratulate him and everyone else who has suffered through adversity and overcome it in order to become a great Canadian citizen. I congratulate and salute the hon. member for Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia.
Getting back to why we are here, On Thursday, we had the economic statement or so-called fiscal update. To call it an economic statement or fiscal update was stretching the boundaries of what I would call the truth. In fact, if truth were an island, it would be uninhabited right now. The and had many options on what they could have done and what they should have done.
I personally believe the time for statesmanship and leadership was at hand. One does not get many opportunities in life to stand in the House of Commons and take a bipartisan approach to address a very serious problem, our economy. In many ways, the situation was not caused by our own doing, although the Parliamentary Budget Officer did say, independently of any political party, that many of the concerns we faced now were brought on by political decisions of the previous mandate of 2006-08.
We asked repeated questions in the House of Commons on the economy and were told to wait until Thursday to get our answers. We were told to wait until Thursday and we would be told what the government would do to help. We were led to believe that if we waited until Thursday, the sun would shine once again. Thursday came along and what did we get? We did get some good things such as the change to the RRIFs to help seniors with their pension availability and their investments, a very good thing for which I applaud the government. However, one or two items out of a speech of that size is not good enough. The Conservatives attacked women and public servants for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
During the campaign, I did not hear from any side that public servants were the problem of our economic situation. I did not hear that to take away the right to strike would solve our economic problems. It was a rather bizarre moment for me to sit in seat 308, one of my favourite seats in the House, wondering where the government was going with the statement. The day of that announcement, we had layoffs in southern Ontario. We had layoffs on Sunday in northern Vancouver Island. We had layoffs in Nova Scotia. Across the country, people are hurting. Instead of addressing that issue, the addressed the public servants and the issue on political party funding.
To be completely honest, on a personal level and not from a party point of view, I do not really care about the public funding we get. If the government wants to scrap it, it can scrap it. The reality is that the economic statement was not the place to make that announcement. An all-party committee could have discussed it and moved it forward, as was done when it was brought in initially.
It was brought in so that we could stop the big money influence that directs us. If somebody donates $50,000 to a person's campaign and someone else donates zero dollars and the two of them phone that person, we know which one the person would respond to first. It is only understandable that the person would respond first to the person who donated $50,000, because money talks. The purpose of that legislation was to get rid of that influence from big corporations and big unions.
We had that debate in 2004, but if it was the wish of the government of the day to remove that funding, there were many other opportunities for it to do so. It was an ideological and political statement, not an economic statement. That is why we are here today discussing this very serious issue.
The and the could have and should have recognized the seriousness of the situation and said very openly, as president-elect Obama has done, that they would reach across the aisle to meet with the leaders of the other parties and their economic advisers and that they would meet with economic advisers throughout the country, including labour, the provinces, and the municipalities, to set up a summit to deal with this issue internally as quickly as possible.
We did not get that type of leadership. If the government had said it within that framework, we would not be talking about this today.
We have a serious situation. Regardless of who forms the government, some tough choices have to be made. Leadership and statesmanship come only so often, and unfortunately the current dropped the ball severely on this one.
I am not the only one saying this. The chambers of commerce of Canada, representing 175,000 businesses, were “disappointed” with the so-called economic statement. I just had a meeting with the Atlantic Provinces Chambers of Commerce. They were disappointed with what was going on. They were looking for leadership and did not get it.
Only the and the small group of people around him can actually explain why they did what they did. I have a lot of good friends on the other side, not only in the NDP but also among my Conservative colleagues. I understand that they want to know what is going on, what is happening and why this is all going on.
They do not have to look farther than the front bench to know exactly what happened. Because of the style of the , he has decided, for whatever reasons, to approach politics in that particular manner. It is most unfortunate. All of us who have been here a little while know this is not how it should be, regardless of whether it is under the former Liberal government or the current Conservative government. The reality is that we could have done much better.
On my desk here, in my office on the Hill and in my office in Nova Scotia I have stacks of emails, faxes and letters. I will respond to each one in my riding personally and explain why we have come to this point. Most of the letters, even the ones I get from across the country, are saying there should be a pox upon all of us.
What are we doing now? We are standing up in the House of Commons, the people's place, and talking about ourselves, not about the issues facing this country. That is a missed opportunity. How many times, Mr. Speaker, have you been here and ended up listening to conversations between elected officials just about themselves?
I cannot say how disappointed I am personally in the whole process through which it happened. It did not have to happen this way.
I can assure everyone that the comments made on Thursday by my friend the , whose riding is next door to mine, were completely and utterly irresponsible for a cabinet minister of any government. He said after the statement that when the opposition acts like chickens, they start to look like chickens. What was the thinking when he said that?
What did he expect the reaction from the opposition would be? Did he think the opposition would just lie down and take it? Did he expect thanks for his wise counsel and for advising us on the proper language and protocol of parliamentary democracy?
We have had enough of that and his wisecrack comments. We have had enough of the and his dictatorial ways. We have offered the olive branch on many occasions, only to have it cut away.
Members of the opposition, regardless of whether they are Liberal, Bloc or NDP, have said enough is enough. We understand the anxiety of the Canadian people throughout the country who wonder what is going on, what is it going to lead to and what it will mean in the future.
To be honest, I do not have all the answers yet. I do not think the current government has all the answers either, but collectively we could have done it. Collectively the House could have stood for something much greater. Collectively we could have shown the spirit of the member for . Collectively we could have had the chutzpah of the great Bill Blaikie of Winnipeg, the knowledge of a Stanley Knowles, the foresight of a Tommy Douglas or even the compassion of a Joe Clark.
However, we lost it. Now we are going to have to work doubly hard to get all that back. I can give the assurance that no matter what happens here in the future, on a personal level I and many other MPs are going to try to repair the damage caused by the and his .
The reality is that we have people in the country who have been laid off. We have Canada Post workers on strike to prevent Canada Post from using EI as a sick leave payment. We have fishermen in southwest Nova Scotia who are getting only $3 a pound for lobster. I hope you are a fan of seafood, Mr. Speaker, but the reality is that fishermen cannot make a living catching lobsters at $3 a pound. We should be talking in the House about how to deal with that specific issue.
Last year, Air Canada gave $43 million to one man, Robert Milton. This year, what did it do? It shut down the flight attendant bases in Winnipeg and Halifax. That resulted in 200 jobs being taken out of Nova Scotia because Air Canada said it was in a tight fiscal situation.
What are those workers and their families expected to do? They voted for us to come here and deal with that issue. What do we end up doing? We end up talking about ourselves.
The reality is that our health care systems in this country are nowhere near what they should be. Our first nations are in desperate straits and require serious infrastructure, and they need it now.
My colleague from northern Ontario has said repeatedly that they need a school in one of his northern ridings. He has asked for it repeatedly and he keeps getting “No” as the answer. Why do they have to keep begging for what we in the south already have? It is simply unacceptable. Those are the issues we should be working on.
The environment was not even mentioned during Thursday's debate. The one issue that links us all together is the air we breath, the water we drink and the food we eat. Because of selfish interests, that issue is now being completely disregarded. Those are the issues we should be talking about.
What about jobs? What about retraining for young people, unemployment insurance for those who are laid off, and bridging pensions to allow older workers in the forestry sector to retire with some dignity, not just in Quebec but across the country?
There should be a proper buyout by the Government of Canada if it wishes to reduce the number of fishermen in the country. If it buys into the idea that there are too many fishermen and not enough fish, why not offer a proper buyout and let them leave with dignity?
Everybody knows that we recently attended a Remembrance Day ceremony on November 11 for veterans and for those who died to give us the democracy we have today. Is our democracy perfect? Absolutely not, but it is the one we have to live with, and there are certain rules by which we all need to abide. If those rules need to change, we can look at them in the future, but 117,000 veterans buried in 72 countries around the world never got a chance to wear their medals, and they sacrificed and died so that we can sit in the House of Commons and debate these issues.
Veterans and their widows need support programs and systems. They should not be put through a Cirque du Soleil act to get the benefits they require. Those are some of the issues the House should be tackling and dealing with, and I know that in a cooperative manner we could do that.
There are many other issues, from education to infrastructure to water and sewer systems and beyond. For example, what happens to the men and women of our military when they come back from the mission in Afghanistan? Will they receive the immediate help they and their families require? These are some of the important issues we need to speak about.
Why is it that over 4,000 men and women medically released from the military have their disability payments clawed back from their pensions? That is a debate we should have in this House of Commons.
Why is it that Agent Orange victims, Chalk River victims and others have to go to court to seek redress from not just this government, but any government? These veterans served us so proudly, and now in their hour of need we let them down.
Those are the issues we should be talking about, but again the economic statement, if we can call it that, mostly goes after the women of the public service in terms of their pay equity battles. Again I am completely flabbergasted, after eleven and a half years here, as to where that came from. I have absolutely no idea.
As well, why would the provoke, and literally attack, the official opposition party, when it was already in dire straits in terms of the election?
Now we see the members of the Liberal Party saying they are not going to accept it. We in the NDP and the Bloc are not going to accept that type of attitude.
This country has many problems. Collectively, we on this side are going to solve those problems. If the Conservatives' unwillingness or inability or ineptitude does not allow them to see the problem and to deal with the issues, then we on this side will do just that, because that is what Canadians have asked us to do. That is what workers and their families have asked us to do. That is what small businesses have asked us to do.
Recently credit card companies have been jacking up the rates they charge restaurants and small businesses when credit cards are used for those services. Why are they jacking up those rates? Why is it that a person who is going through difficult times and misses a credit card payment has his or her credit card rate jacked up by an additional five per cent as a penalty for missing the payment? Why would they do that to people?
These are some of the issues we should be dealing with and fixing, but again I go back to the fact that we end up talking about ourselves. The Canadian people, regardless of which side of the fence they stand on, are going to look seriously at all of us.
We wanted to know why voting was down to 59%. It was because the Conservatives started the last election on a broken promise. They had a promise of a fixed election date. Nobody brought the government down. There was no confidence vote in this House of Commons, yet the went to see the Governor General and had, I assume, a nice cup of tea. Then he said, “This is it. We are shutting it down”. There was no reason at all. They just shut it down and went into a $300 million election. True, they came back with a few more seats, but they did not get a majority and they did not get the popular vote.
That should have told them very clearly that they had to work with the opposition leaders and the opposition parties to move the situations of this country forward. We offered the olive branch, and it was cut off. My question to them is, why? Why did they do this?
Only one man, or maybe two, can answer that question. I do not think anyone here right now could answer it. The should really tell the Canadian people why they did what they did last Thursday.
If we collectively work together, we can solve the problems of this country. I have been on the committees for fisheries and oceans and for veterans affairs for a long time. Those committees work very well together, regardless of the committee members' party affiliations. That is how this House should work, but leadership is required. We were looking for leadership on Thursday, but it did not materialize, and that is most unfortunate.
Mr. Speaker, like many members I too would like to congratulate the re-elected members and also the newly-elected members. When they entered this House, I am sure many of them probably did not expect the first order of business would be to deal with these issues.
I also want to thank the people of Brandon--Souris who for the third time have returned me to office. I often say to people that Brandon--Souris is the heart of Canada in my mind. We look in all directions to the rest of Canada. In Brandon--Souris we have a bit of an affinity with the rest of the country in the way we look at things and the way we do things, and I think we do it with respect on all sides.
I do want to talk about a few things, but I will start with the fiscal update.
It is important for Canadians to recognize that the said very clearly from the start that this would not be a budget. He said it would be a fiscal update. He said it would be a where we are at this point in time in Canada. He said it would outline what the future may hold and what we are prepared to do in the future should those situations occur.
Everything I have heard from members opposite in this debate is talk about the fiscal update. We talk about strengthening our financial institutions. We talk about how not only this government but previous governments have taken steps to strengthen those institutions in order to make them able to withstand the pressures that we are now under in a world economic downturn.
We have talked about taxes. We have talked about other countries that have reduced taxes for their individuals and for their corporations. Why? Because the individuals are the wage earners and the corporations are the job creators.
We need individuals and corporations to be in a position where at the end of the day they can continue to make decisions that move our country forward, create the opportunities that we all hope and wish for every constituent we represent, but also move the country forward on the financial side so we can strengthen our economy at the same time.
We made a commitment as a government to the G7, G8 and G20 nations that we would not do anything radical, financially or economically. We made an agreement with them because we did not want countries acting independently of each other thereby creating themselves another crisis.
We only have to look to the south of us where should the American government decide to make substantial changes without consultation or discussion with us, those changes could jeopardize us and put us in a terrible position immediately, not down the road. We know the issues facing the people in America. We know the challenges they are going through. I believe we are starting to see and feel that impact.
Many of the steps that this government has taken have put us in a position where we can still stand today and say that Canada is a leading nation in the world economic situation.
Many top financial people suggest that Canada is going into this economic situation last and is going to come out of it first. Why? Because we have solid principles in place that guide our lending institutions, that guide our monetary situation, and protect Canadians from the downtown that we are now experiencing.
What I would like to acknowledge is the fact that the fiscal update addressed some of the issues that Canadians were talking to us about the most. I refer to one example and that is the seniors' issues.
People in my constituency have told me they are in a tough situation. They have a challenge facing them because they have to make a decision with their future and their investments. They believe that right now is not a good time to be looking at cashing in some RRIFs.
This government addressed that. Did we address it completely or satisfactorily for every Canadian? I suspect not. A government looking after a national population has to make decisions that impact all Canadians, not just specific organizations or specific groups that have an issue they want the government to take up.
We have done that. We did it with modicum. We did it with the idea that more may be needed.
Members opposite talk about stimulus. We have all seen what stimulus can do if it is done wrong. The money flows, people seem satisfied for a short period of time, but when the money dries up, we face the same realities that we are facing today. We have to come forward with a financial plan that addresses the specific needs.
Many of my colleagues and many of my friends are involved in the automotive industry. I was involved in the automotive industry. I understand what people in that industry are going through, but for a government to simply step up to the plate and say that we are going to throw billions of dollars at a problem without a plan, without an outcome that can be measured at the end of the day, what would we be telling Canadian taxpayers? We would be telling them that the only solution to any of our problems would be to throw more money at it to try to make it go away.
We could do that for political expediency if we so chose to do, but that is not the objective of a sound government. It is not something that I will encourage or ask my government to do. I just will not let it do that.
We have to look forward. Over time in the next few months we are going to see some changes in the world economic situation and we will be able to address them directly as opposed to throwing money at the wall and hoping that some of it sticks and some of the benefits take place.
I have listened to the other members. I have read their documents. I have looked at the agreements they have made. All they are doing is echoing the same thing we said in our fiscal update. We need to spend more money on infrastructure. We have addressed that.
It was clearly outlined by the that we would double the spending on infrastructure in the next fiscal year. That creates more opportunity and more jobs. It actually enhances our ability to move goods and services not only across Canada but around the world, which again creates the opportunity for us to benefit, to grow and to continue to fight the economic downturn that we are now facing.
People join political parties for various reasons. There are political parties on the right and political parties on the left. There are environmental parties. Canada is a complete mixture of thoughts and ideas, but when we make the decision as individuals to join a political party, we make that decision based on what that political party is saying to us and how it impacts our lives and how it fits in with our thinking in the world, in the political system and in our governments of today.
I freely admit I have been a Conservative for a long time. I grew up in a Conservative family and I believe I have the Conservative values that I think are necessary not only to make my community, my province and my country move forward but to also position us as a country in the world where we can show responsibility and accountability to the people. I suspect when members joined the Liberal Party, when members joined the New Democratic Party and when members joined the Bloc party, they all agreed with specific parts of that respective party.
When we get into the dialogue in this chamber, those commitments and dedication to the party principle become even stronger and are echoed across the country. It must be so difficult today for some members to forfeit that belief, not everything, but to forfeit the belief that they have stood for.
I talked about joining a political party. The next step is when one becomes active in that political party, when one takes a role in that party, the governance role or being part of the executive that manages all of the campaigns. We all count on those people. However, when one makes that next step one is saying, “I really believe in what these people are saying. I really believe in what my party believes in and I am prepared to make the sacrifices to make that work”.
The one step further relates to everyone sitting in the chamber as elected members of Parliament. We have made a decision not only to believe in a party and to be active in it, but to let our names stand. For me, the proudest moment I have ever experienced in my life is the honour that has been bestowed upon me not only to serve federally, but also to have served provincially and municipally. I have had the great fortune to represent people having been elected by the people based on what I stood for and what I presented to them as their representative and what I promised I would do as their representative.
I suspect today there is a lot of anguish on all sides in regard to what we see taking place in the public sphere. I suspect there are a lot of people who have made commitments to all political parties. I am not excluding the Conservative Party from this. I think for many people who have supported a party financially, or with their time, with their effort, with their volunteerism, everything they have done to support that political party has come into question over these last few days.
I am disappointed. I certainly think Canadians are tremendously disappointed in us. Collectively we have to take a deep breath and recognize in what we are doing and the commitments we are making today how the people we represent and who support us, sometimes blindly, must feel.
I am receiving numerous emails, phone calls and letters. Sometimes in this business we tend to exaggerate, but I have heard from over 100 and less than 1,000 people, and I suspect the number will continue to grow. People are disappointed in all of us. They are frustrated with the way we are carrying on. They are frustrated with what is happening to democracy in Canada. I fear greatly that we will all suffer the consequences of what we are doing and what is happening today in Canada, particularly in this Parliament.
Everyone agrees that the economic downturn will impact Canada. No one will deny that. We have been fortunate as a country to stay above that fray for a while, but it is obvious that in the next several months we will have some tough decisions to make as a country and we will have some tough decisions to make as a government. However, we need to do it for one reason, and that is to benefit Canadians, not ourselves nor our families.
When a person is elected, particularly in Manitoba and not so much at the federal level, they are elected without fear or without favour. That means they are able to make the decisions they believe are best for Canadians without fear of repercussion or without expectation of favour. If we all stepped back and took a look at ourselves and listened to those words, things might change in the House, and I desperately hope they do. Things might change for Canadians when they see us actually working on their behalf instead of the self-serving righteousness that we all offer.
Members opposite spoke clearly about the rules of Parliament, how governments can change and how people can move in and out of government without elections. I grant that; I know that is the rule and I fully understand it. I want to relate a story going back to when I was a young boy.
We were playing ball, 12 and under ball. We were small-town kids who needed everybody to make the team. We always liked beating those teams from the bigger towns. If we could do that, we were satisfied. We did beat a bigger town team. We beat that team three games out of four, but lost the series on a rule. Did that bitterness ever go away? I could go back to my small community and raise that issue with people today and they will remember the precise moment in time and history when we felt, as small-town folks, that we were being taken over and dictated to by the guys from the big town. It was all within the rules. It was all clear. The rules allowed for it, but it did not make it settle any better with my community.
I do not think Canadians will be satisfied with this. We can say that the rules are the rules and we are strictly following the rules, but again, I would ask us to look deep into our souls and ask whether this is how we want to do it. At the end of the day, is this where we want to be? Are we willing and able to stand in front of our communities and say, ”Yes, today we are the government and this is how we did it”.
We have to take a hard look at that. Canadians cannot afford the upheaval that we are presenting to them as members of Parliament. We are the people who are supposed to be making the laws of this country and creating the opportunities. Instead, we are seen collectively as self-serving and nothing more.
It is a challenging time for Canada. Everyone has issues to deal with. I listened to the members opposite. We all have specific concerns in our communities that we are trying to address.
I represent a large agricultural base which has suffered in the last several years from drought, from rain, from just about anything, just as people in our forestry sector and people in the automotive sector are suffering. We have to find solutions, but we have to find solutions that work, not solutions that continue the status quo, which is not working. If we do not look beyond that, we are in for serious challenges and we are going to create a deeper challenge for us in the future.
I have sat in the chamber for four years. I have been in opposition and in government. As I said earlier in the House, I have seen the bitterness that has evolved. Again, I will not point a finger at one or two individuals. As a group we have to acknowledge that we have all contributed to that situation. As politicians, we had better take a sharp look at ourselves and where we want to go in the future.
We are talking about a fiscal update. We are talking about a budget that will come out in the last week of January. It gives the government and people time to digest all of the situations impacting us. It gives us the ability to listen to whatever input the opposition members may have, but we have to do it constructively. We have to listen in the same breath.
The state of our economy is not as dire as we are saying it is today. The potential is there. We all acknowledge that. Our challenge is to manage the situation as we see it today and what we see in the future.
I look back and question some of things our government did, but when I look at the results today, I have a comfort zone that people smarter than I had ideas and solutions to some of the economic situations we were facing. We are prepared to put those ideas out there for debate and for the government to move on them. I think we did a lot of the right things.
This morning I had a call from a gentleman I have known for years. I have great respect for him. He is disappointed in us all. I will end with his comment to me. He said, “I see bitterness on all sides. I see anger and hatred expressed publicly that I never thought I would see in my lifetime. My advice is to never let your hate of someone or something deny your love for Canada”.
Mr. Speaker, first, may I say that I will be sharing my time with...
An hon. member: Stéphane Dion?
Mr. Serge Cardin:
We have just come from an election; it was only 48 days ago. An election represents not only an opportunity but also a responsibility for members and candidates to go into their ridings; to talk with the people, to meet with social and economic groups, and all the different institutions. It is necessary to find out the real needs of the people; to learn about their hopes, but, above all, we must be able to identify solutions and take action to apply those solutions.
Of course, considering the election results; in the light of the government’s Speech from the Throne, and also the economic statement, it is obvious that the necessary and indeed essential work of talking to the people has not been done. I should allow for a caveat. If the work was done, the Conservatives did not listen. If, in fact, they did pay attention to the needs of their residents; if they did actually listen, their leader probably spoke louder than their own voters. If none of these things happened and they came forward with solutions other than the solutions proposed by the Bloc Québécois, it must be because they do not have any ridings like those in Quebec. Those are ridings that have Teflon protection, so that they are not affected by reality. However, I am sure the financial, economic and social problems affecting Quebec must also affect all of Canada.
Why then are they acting this way? Clearly, what they have presented to us is not an economic statement. It is really an ideological statement. It is an ideology that finds its roots in the tar sands. One can imagine what would grow there, what would come out of it and what the Conservatives are feeding on. That must really fog up their glasses, because we must recognize that the vision of this government is very, very short.
We have gone from one minority government to another. It is true that during the last election the Conservatives insisted it was their intention to elect a majority government. That was the reason they called the election. Now, having been denied that result, and frustrated at the fact that the great majority of voters said no to them—however, I should not exaggerate; there are limits to everything—they bring forward an economic statement that clearly shows how blind the government is to the need for urgent action. While all the governments in the world are taking action against the crisis, this Conservative Reform government—or Reform Conservative government, whatever you call it, it is the same thing—does exactly the opposite.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Serge Cardin: Let us talk about that, since I heard an echo from the distant prairies, by way of Quebec. Take the example of the person who did not go to talk to the people, or if he did go, did not listen to them. He is not aware of the needs of the people in his riding. He only repeats the policies of the Conservative reformers that he has been spreading throughout Quebec and he never stops hitting the people of Quebec over the head.
Instead of tabling a plan for economic recovery, rather than providing oxygen, the has chosen to suffocate the economy.
The Conservative leader decided to ignore businesses, regions and people. We cannot accept that. Instead of tackling the economic crisis, the Reform-Conservative government decided to provoke a democratic crisis for strictly partisan reasons by eliminating political party funding. The also decided to attack workers by suspending their right to strike, and to attack women by making the right to pay equity negotiable. It is easy to conclude that, in an attempt to more easily impose his ideology, the wants to suppress political parties, unions, women and all forms of opposition, including, primarily, the voice of the people.
See you later, Mr. Speaker.