Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this opposition day motion. The burden of my argument is that the request we are making to the government is so utterly reasonable that any decision by the government not to accede to this request will be seen by all reasonable people to be utterly unreasonable.
It is reasonable because, with regard to this $3 billion fund, all we are asking from the government is that it provide a modicum of accountability to the people of Canada. It could do so at absolutely no cost in terms of any significant resources required and no cost in terms of any delay in getting the money out the door.
It is quite reasonable to ask the government for some transparency and accountability, especially since there would be no delay in terms of spending the money needed to boost the economy.
Let me begin first by explaining what it is we are asking for. The government has asked, through the estimates, to have this special $3 billion fund under the so-called Treasury Board vote 35. These funds would be spendable over the period April to June of this year. Liberals do not have any objection to that in principle because we acknowledge the urgency of getting money out the door. The problem is the government will not tell Canadians what the money is to be spent on.
In the estimates there is the statement that the funds will be used “to supplement other appropriations” as well as to provide for budget initiatives. In other words, as written, it is a blank cheque because the funds can be used for purposes stated in the budget and to supplement other appropriations, in other words, anything under the sun. This is what we deem to be unacceptable. Canadians should be informed as to at least the general nature of these expenditures rather than delivering a blank cheque to the government.
The Liberal request comes in two parts. First, we want the government to provide to Parliament and Canadians a simple list of the programs and departments that will be covered by the $3 billion by April 3. This is hardly an onerous request because I have actually seen such a list in a private briefing received from Treasury Board officials. The list already exists, so I see no reason why the government should hesitate to provide that list to Parliament and to the people of this country.
The second thing we are asking is that the government table after-the-fact reports, and I stress the term after-the-fact reports, on spending projects. This involves no delay because it is after the fact and it involves no significant additional work because all of the work would have been done, in any event, to obtain the Treasury Board approvals. All we are asking is for the government to provide a list of programs and departments, which it already has, there is no cost involved, and an after-the-fact report on spending projects which the government would have in its hands, in any event.
Let me quote some Conservatives who wax eloquent on the subject of accountability and should agree with us in the Liberal Party when all we are demanding is a modicum of accountability.
The then Treasury Board president in 2006 said, “To instill confidence, the government must be open and it must be more accountable. It must ensure that Canadians and parliamentarians have the right controls in place and it must provide them with the information they need to judge its performance”.
The same minister in April 2006 said, “Canadians said loudly and clearly that they wanted an open, honest and accountable government. They want their taxpayer dollars spent wisely and well”.
This statement was made in the Conservative Party election platform in 2006:
Governments cannot be held to account if Parliament does not know the accurate state of public finances.
Therefore, when we on the Liberal side ask simply that the government provide a list that it already has as to which departments the $3 billion will be coming from, we are not asking too much. It is entirely consistent with the stated views of the Conservative Party.
I saved my best quote for the end because this is a quote from the Auditor General of Canada on March 23, 2009, which addresses the very issue that is before us today. She stated:
It’s not unreasonable. $3 billion is a fair bit of money and they must have ideas, even in broad strokes, how that money will flow between April and June. I must say that I don’t buy the argument that they can’t tell them something — maybe not the detail of, say, what festival, or how much, but they could at least say where the money is going, whether it’s (to) infrastructure or festivals.
That was stated by the Auditor General of Canada. We are not even asking for festivals and infrastructure. In the list, we are simply asking for the amounts of money by program and department, and an after-the-fact accounting of where that money goes.
Imagine the now in his role as leader of the opposition if the shoe were on the other foot and if a Liberal government were to have the temerity and the lack of accountability to propose a $3 billion blank cheque, or slush fund some might call it, without indicating to Parliament or to Canadians any idea at all of how a putative Liberal government would spend that money. I contend that the Prime Minister would have had an absolute hissy fit at the very notion that such a blank cheque should be delivered to a Liberal government, but now seems to want it delivered to his own government.
The need for accountability is compounded by the fact that the government has shown itself to be untrustworthy. I refer to the information we have had for some time now that in terms of infrastructure projects a disproportionate amount of infrastructure projects ended up in Conservative ridings. An even more egregious case which was reported only yesterday by David Akin of Canwest News that with regard to the program new horizons for seniors, since February 17, distributions of approximately $20,000 per case were made in 33 ridings. It is difficult to believe this is the case, but according to Mr. Akin, of those 33 ridings, 32 were held by Conservatives. I would contend it goes beyond any reasonable statistical probabilities that this was a purely random event; 32 out of 33 is a very high fraction.
I think that the government has only one defence against the proposal we are making today, and that is that the money must go out the door quickly because Canada's economy is in crisis and it is imperative that there be no delays.
On this we are 100% in agreement. It is we who have said for months that the Conservatives' delay in bringing forward a decent budget was delaying infrastructure projects, shovel ready projects, and if they acted earlier many more thousands of Canadians would now be employed.
We rushed this budget through at lightning speed, notwithstanding its inadequacies, because we recognized that the top priority had to be to get the money out the door. We have agreed as well, in terms of us putting the government on probation, that one of the things we will be watching like hawks is whether it does indeed get the money out the door because we all know its record, for example in infrastructure, has been dismal, getting less than 20¢ on the dollar out of the door in terms of every dollar it has announced.
We also know that the Business Development Bank of Canada committed to billions of dollars of much needed business credit lending but has yet to get any money out the door or even to have something that could be described as a plan.
It is the Liberals on this side, as much as anyone on the government's side or any other party, who have been seized with the urgency of fast action to get money out the door, but the point is that the modicum of accountability that we are proposing will not delay this money by one nanosecond.
Let me just repeat that, in case somebody on the other side has missed the point. The first thing we are asking for is a list, which already exists and which I have seen with my own eyes. All the government has to do is produce that list of proposed expenditures by department and by program by April 3, so clearly that will cause no delay. The other thing we are asking for, after the moneys have been approved, is a reporting to Parliament of what those projects are.
The idea that it cannot do this because of the urgency of getting money out the door is an argument that has no foundation whatsoever. To put it differently, the Conservative government should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. It should be able to both provide to Canadians at least a broad explanation of how it proposes to spend taxpayers' money and it should be able to get that money out the door expeditiously.
Canadians should not be asked to choose either accountability or rapid fiscal stimulus. Canadians should be entitled to both. In terms of the specifics of our motion, I have demonstrated very clearly that there is no choice required. There is no trade-off here. It is entirely possible and extremely simple both to get the money out the door quickly and to do so in a reasonably accountable fashion.
My last point is this. What is the reasonable person, the non-partisan person, to conclude if the government says no to this ultra-reasonable request by the Liberal Party of Canada? A reasonable person would have no choice but to conclude that the government must have some ulterior motive because if it is able to provide this accountability at no cost in terms of delay, at no cost in terms of the resources of the public service, then what would be the reason to say no?
I can honestly think of no reason to say no unless the government has some agenda to use this $3 billion for purposes not stated in the budget, for purposes of a Conservative riding-directed strategy of the kind described by David Akin in the case of new horizons for seniors, or of the kind documented by infrastructure expenses.
I conclude by saying to the government that what we have asked of it today is so eminently reasonable, so modest, so appropriate, so costless to do, that if the government refuses to do this, a reasonable person would have no alternative but to conclude that the government has something to hide.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
This government has brought forward an aggressive multi-year plan to help Canadians in tough economic times.
This plan is timely, targeted and temporary. It will enable individuals, families and communities in all regions and provinces across Canada to access funds.
It puts in place measures to ensure that funding flows to those who need it most, while ensuring that due diligence is done. One of these measures is a special central vote in main estimates of $3 billion assigned to the Treasury Board Secretariat for budget implementation. The funds allocated by this vote will allow our government to provide immediate funding for ready-to-go initiatives announced in the economic action plan in advance of the normal parliamentary supply schedule.
These are extraordinary times. We cannot wait for the normal supply period in June before getting money to some of the ready-to-go projects. We have to act immediately if Canadians are going to feel the positive impact of the economic stimulus this year. Time is of the essence. I would ask all members of the opposition to get on board instead of playing political games with the well-being of Canadian families and businesses. Nero fiddled while Rome burned. The hon. members opposite risk doing the same.
This government has a job to do. We need to get money flowing to the people who need it most. Even the International Monetary Fund said as much. In a recent report it said that Canada's immediate focus should be on implementing the budget to mobilize spending.
That is why we are working day and night to get everything lined up now, and we are doing this responsibly. We are striking the right balance between the rapid delivery of stimulus measures and appropriate due diligence and transparency.
The process we have in place to provide accountability and transparency in the use of these funds is the same as the normal process we use when asking for parliamentary approval. The only difference is the timeframe has been moved forward from June to April so that these funds can be applied to the ready-to-go projects at the beginning of the construction season rather than at the end. That makes a huge difference when we are trying to create jobs so that people can feed their families.
We will be reporting to Parliament so that Parliament can hold the government to account on the use of these funds. The process is completely transparent.
There seems to be an assumption among some members of the opposition that there is an ulterior motive here. I can tell members that the only motive is to help Canadians during these difficult times. Our record speaks for itself. We brought Canadians the Federal Accountability Act. We brought Canadians the Lobbying Act.
Given the Liberals' record of scandal, they are not the people to lecture us on accountability.
All of the funds distributed through the $3 billion appropriation will be thoroughly accounted for. In keeping with this government's desire to be responsive and responsible, we have established clear conditions for the use of this vote to ensure that the appropriate checks and balances are in place.
Let me be clear about this. The $3 billion can only be used for economic action plan initiatives announced in budget 2009 and approved by this House. Every initiative funded from this vote requires the approval of Treasury Board. Existing policy requirements on accountability and reporting must be met. For example, grants and contributions payments are subject to the transfer payments policy. The use of this vote is time limited. Funds can only be allocated between April 1 and June 30, 2009.
Contrary to what has been reported, we chose to create a special vote to provide bridge funding for departments to ensure due diligence in approvals, transparency in reporting, and accountability for its use.
We will also streamline the review and approval of policies and programs, while ensuring appropriate controls and respect for parliamentary authority. For example, we will use simplified or omnibus Treasury Board submissions for straightforward program extensions or top-ups. We have better aligned the timing of the budget and estimates. Parliament will have full disclosure. Reporting on allocations on the vote will be done in supplementary estimates and in regular reports to Parliament on the economic action plan.
In addition, thanks to our efforts to strengthen accountability and transparency, the public service is better equipped to handle this process than ever before. For example, over the past three years, financial management standards across government have been improved, departments have independent audit committees that include members from outside government, and steps have been taken to ensure departments have qualified chief financial officers. Departments have also bolstered the management of their operations.
Under the management accountability framework assessments, large departments and agencies, representing over 90% of government spending, have improved in the area of financial management and control. Recent results show that financial management indicators rated acceptable or strong have risen to 90% from 59%.
We have also increased departmental oversight with a committee of deputy ministers who will be tracking progress and overseeing the implementation of these measures. The Auditor General will also audit spending. For the second year in a row, the government plans to use early spring supplementary estimates as a vehicle for budget measures.
We all appreciate that we have a big job ahead of us. We will be balancing appropriate due diligence and transparency, while getting money out the door to help Canadians. We are up to the task and intend to help Canadians in these difficult times. That is more than I can say for some members of the opposition, who want to play games with the $3 billion needed to prime the stimulus pump.
The economic stimulus, including the $3 billion, is money invested to assist Canadians when they need it most. I hear from my constituents in my riding of daily. They are excited about the economic action plan. They know that the projects outlined in our plan will improve our communities and provide much needed jobs.
Some of the programs my constituents are excited about include investments in trails, recreational centres and green infrastructure projects, to name a few. Communities across the country will benefit from our plan. The people in and all Canadian communities are looking forward to these important investments and jobs.
I am getting to work for and all Canadians. I encourage the hon. members opposite to put aside politics and get to work as well.
I am shocked that some members of the House are playing politics at a time when Canadians are turning to government for help. I am disappointed in their insistence on opposing for the sake of opposing and making political hay out of nothing when they could be pitching in to help, not hindering Canadians in their efforts to climb out of this pit. I am saddened they would put scoring cheap political points before compassion.
I am proud to be part of a government that believes in Canadians, a government that has remade the way Ottawa works under the banners of accountability and transparency, a government that is dedicated to ensuring every tax dollar delivers results.
This is the government that will get dollars out of the door with due diligence and respect for the Canadian taxpayer. This is not the time to play politics with our economy. We do not need more roadblocks; we need more roads built.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity today to speak in support of vote 35, the $3 billion required by the government to kickstart our economic action plan. The government's action plan will help Canadians and businesses weather the storm and it will help the economy become strong. It is a good plan. It is timely, it is targeted and it is temporary and lays out the path for our return to prosperity.
The stressed this in his recent speech to the Brampton Board of Trade when he said, “We are positioned to emerge from this global recession in a stronger position in the world than we have ever been”. I just returned from a trip to Asia where we dealt with the economic circumstances in the globe today. Asian leaders are well aware of the strength of the Canadian position and are very appreciative.
Our multi-year plan outlines the many measures that will be taken to stimulate the economy, to protect Canadians hit the hardest and to secure our long-term prosperity. The stimulus in our economic action plan represents 1.9% of our economy for the next fiscal year and approximately 1.4% for the year after. However, for these measures to have a real impact, they have to be implemented as soon as possible. We need to get this money out the door quickly to help Canadians in the short term. Quite honestly, we are not the only ones to think so. Even the International Monetary Fund in a recent report said that Canada's immediate focus should be on implementing the budget immediately to mobilize spending. That is exactly what we are doing.
One of the key measures we are putting in place to this is vote 35 of the main estimates for $3 billion assigned to the Treasury Board Secretariat for budget implementation. This appropriation will allow Treasury Board to provide initial funding for ready to go initiatives announced in the economic action plan after April 1. Reporting on these allocations from the vote will be done in the supplementary estimates and in quarterly reports to Parliament on the economic action plan. All the funds distributed will be thoroughly accounted for.
In keeping with the need to be responsive and responsible, we have also established clear conditions for the use of the vote to ensure the appropriate checks and balances are in place. My constituents would demand that as would the constituents of all members. It is our responsibility as parliamentarians.
For example, it can only be used for initiatives announced in the economic action plan. Every initiative funded from this vote requires the approval of Treasury Board and existing policy requirements on accountability and reporting must be met. Also, the use of this vote is time limited. Funds can be allocated only for that brief period between April 1 and June 30.
Contrary to what has been reported, we chose to create this special vote to provide bridge funding for departments to ensure due diligence and approvals in transparency in reporting and accountability for its use.
In addition, we will streamline the review and the approval of policies and programs while ensuring that appropriate controls and respect for parliamentary authority are in place. For example, we will use simplified or omnibus Treasury Board submissions for straightforward program extensions or for top-ups. Existing programs will be dealt with in an omnibus way because these have received prior approval from Treasury Board.
In addition, we have better aligned the timing of this budget and the estimates.
Thanks to new measures put in place by the Treasury Board Secretariat, the public service now is better equipped to handle this process than in previous years. Over the past three years financial management standards across the government have been dramatically improved. Departments now have independent audit committees that include members from outside government as well as qualified chief financial officers. Departments now have also improved the management of their operations from an efficiency rate of 58% to 59% now up to over 90%, a dramatic improvement. We are very thankful for the improvements at the department level.
Under the management accountability framework assessments, large departments and agencies have not only improved by a bit, but they have improved their performance in financial management and total control across the board, and we are very appreciative of that.
We have also increased departmental oversight with a direct committee of deputy ministers who will be tracking progress and overseeing the implementation of these measures, a recommendation from the Auditor General. The Auditor General, of course, will be in addition auditing spending.
In addition, for the second year now, the government plans to use early spring supplementary estimates as a vehicle for budget measures. One could hardly say that there are no measures of accountability.
We have streamlined our process. We have advanced the normal parliamentary supply schedule because this economic crisis demands quick action.
People in my riding have called strongly for this type of stimulus. I expect that members from all parties have experienced the same type of demand. The processes are there to do it. The public service is working day and night to do it. The government is pushing in the House to do it.
I have complete confidence in the ability to support our fellow citizens in this time of crisis. That is what we are here for. We are Canadians, and in a time of crisis Canadians have always risen to the occasion. We have come together, but what are members of the official opposition doing now? Respectfully, they are dragging their feet. They are slowing down the flow of money to Canadians by playing politics with this very simple vote.
We have the capability, the expertise and the desire to help Canadians. Public servants are putting in exceptionally long hours to help Canadians in their time of need. Will the members of the opposition please give them a hand and help too? Will they please stop obstructing the measures that Canadians clearly want? That is what I ask of them.
With the economic action plan as laid out by this government, as passed by the opposition, this government has laid out not only a plan for sustaining the economic downturn, but also a blueprint for our future prosperity.
Canada was the last advanced country to fall into this recession. We will make sure its effects here are the least severe. We will come out of this faster than anyone and stronger than anyone.
I ask the opposition members today to simply work with us to ensure that these critical and crucial investments are not delayed.
The eyes of Canadians are upon us all. I ask hon. members to support vote 35 and get the money flowing, or will they simply put up more roadblocks and turn their backs on those asking for their help? I would certainly hope not.
Canadians are depending on us and on that money to stimulate the economy at this time of economic duress, but we certainly appreciate the fact that we all have a big job ahead of us. I do believe that all of us in the House are up to the task.
I hope the members of the opposition will join us in doing the right thing. Really, why should we not? After all, we are all Canadians in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
It is worthwhile to take part in this debate on the motion by the Liberal Party, because it enables us to revisit the entire Conservative budget, a budget that the Bloc Québécois obviously considered absolutely inadequate and unacceptable for Quebec, which is why we voted against it.
As we know, the budget contains a government request for a special vote of $3 billion. That strikes us, when all is said and done, as tantamount to handing the government a blank cheque. It is of great concern to us, knowing the federal government's tendency to use similar funds in the past for purposes that were not all that acceptable from the point of view of political and socio-economic objectives. Sometimes, as we are also aware, funds were actually embezzled, as in the sponsorship scandal.
It is, therefore, extremely worrisome to see the Conservative government asking for this blank cheque, and worrisome as well to see that the official opposition is prepared to again hand over a cheque that, while not perhaps totally blank, is pretty close to it, just as it did for the budget it criticizes in every question period. Yet it voted in favour of the Conservative budget and is therefore complicit in its inadequacies and inequalities.
We will be in favour of this motion before us, nonetheless, because it is truly the minimum as far as accountability is concerned that one can require of a government. It seems to me, however, that the Liberal motion could have gone much farther and we will be proposing an amendment to the House as a whole, and the Liberal Party in particular. My colleague from will be doing that shortly.
This motion does, therefore, strike us as insufficient, but it is nevertheless a step toward the necessity of requiring a far more serious accounting from the government. It is obvious, for instance, that the motion as worded by the Liberals means that we will be informed once the funds are allocated, when it will be too late to intervene and hold a public debate on how they will be used.
The wording of the motion would make it possible for the money to be spent not only on the measures announced in chapter 3 of the budget, but also on increasing other expenditures. We have been given vague information. I would note that all of the measures announced in the budget are in chapter 3, so the information provided by the is really quite general. We have also been told that other expenditures might be increased. In light of the fact that the money has to be spent by June 1, I think that we have the right to know what the government has in mind before it spends the money.
There is no way that the and the do not already know which programs will be getting a share of the $3 billion. I do not understand why the government cannot provide that information right away. We are not necessarily asking for all the details, but I think that parliamentarians should be given at least some basic information because this is about taxpayers' money, after all. The role of parliamentarians, those from Quebec anyway, members of the Bloc Québécois, is to ensure that the money is spent in a manner consistent with the values and interests of those we represent, who are, in this case, Quebeckers, of course.
As I said, the budget is both inadequate and unacceptable. For example, half of the measures announced by the are tax cuts. Not only have virtually all experts and economists condemned tax cuts as ineffective when it comes to kick-starting the economy in a time of crisis, which is where we are now, but that money could have been used to right wrongs.
I would like to list some of the ways in which Quebec has been wronged. That money could have been used to right such wrongs. First of all, the new formula in the budget will cut a billion dollars in equalization payments and also cap payments. That means a billion-dollar shortfall for Quebec. That problem could have been fixed and the previous formula left in place, as the promised. The building Canada fund will also be short $2 billion, and post-secondary education funding will have to make do with $800 million less. That is a very big deal.
Higher education, like education generally, is the key to the future of a nation and a country. Transfers to Quebec—and, indeed, to the other provinces—for post-secondary education have not been adjusted to make up for the cuts by the previous Liberal government. The result is that these transfers remain at the 1994-95 level.
I have another example. There is $600 million for the Canada social transfer, that is, for social assistance. There is $460 million invested in research infrastructure. There is $421 million for the ice storm, since the government still has not assumed its responsibilities in this regard. There is $250 million, which was announced on the sly just before Christmas. In that case, the revenues of Hydro-Quebec are not considered in the same way as those of Hydro One. I might add that the federal government has never paid its share of the harmonization of the Quebec sales tax and the GST, which it had undertaken to do with the other provinces. The Maritimes have already benefited.
The cuts to income taxes are poorly targeted and exaggerated. The $6 billion fiscal imbalance with the Quebec government could have been corrected. This situation has been criticized by all parties and observers. So, a lot more interesting things might have been done instead of what was actually done.
The announced this morning that she will add another $60 million to reduce delays in processing claimants' applications for employment insurance. At the moment, processing takes 55 days to 60 days in the regions where unemployment rates are still reasonable. I can imagine what it must be like in the regions hit by the forestry or fisheries crises. She has announced another $60 million to hire people who will process the applications and she thinks that this will bring results. She wants us to believe that it will bring results. It is a smokescreen.
The fundamental problem with employment insurance, its administration and its processing is the Employment Insurance Act itself, which, over the years, has been made so complex by the Liberals and Conservatives, simply in order to prevent the unemployed from enjoying benefits, that it is now unmanageable. This is the first time that, following cuts by both Liberals and Conservatives, their employment insurance plan—not mine—is running off the rails because it has been tailored with one objective only, that of cutting off as many potential claimants as possible. The bureaucracy of this plan is now bogged down.
We will not fix the problem by injecting $60 million. What will work and will help those who lose their jobs is a standard eligibility threshold for all unemployed workers. The proposed threshold of 360 hours is a criterion that can be easily applied. According to the current law, between 420 and 900 hours, together with all kinds of other conditions, are required. Although there are difficulties at present with the administration of employment insurance, this complex system could be fixed.
For instance, there is a completely unjustified two week waiting period when the unemployed are not entitled to benefits. Why? Are they responsible for having been laid off? We are in an economic downturn and there are not many people who have lost their jobs of their own accord. The two week waiting period is an anachronism dating back to the start of employment insurance, in 1942, when workers who paid into employment insurance did not pay premiums for the first weeks of work. Thus, the two week waiting period was put in place. It can no longer be justified and it should be changed.
I want to mention one last thing about the problems with employment insurance. I am referring to the belief introduced by the Liberals and taken up, perhaps even more energetically, by the Conservative government, whereby employment insurance claimants are potential cheaters. They should be trusted. They should be paid and investigations carried out later. The few dozen potential cheaters can be dealt with later so that the 200,000 workers who have lost their jobs over the past two months are not penalized. It is scandalous and that is what should have been addressed by the budget. Unfortunately, the Liberals approved it and the situation cannot be corrected with the motion they have introduced today. It is unacceptable.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise on this Liberal motion which basically takes us back to a discussion of the budget in general and the measures brought forward by the government. This great question of Vote 35 is something new. The Conservative government has asked for a blank cheque to spend such huge amounts that even the Auditor General said she was very concerned about how such a fund would be managed. She is worried about how transparent the government will be in its handling of a fund like this. It is a blank cheque. It is really frightening, but the Liberal Party still decided to support it.
As I was saying, this takes us back to a study of the budget in its entirety. We have been saying all along that the Conservative budget is clearly inadequate and unacceptable to Quebec. There are several things that take us back to this point. We spoke about the personal income tax cuts. The Conservative government included these cuts in its budget, but they are not targeted very well. In addition, as it itself admitted, the cuts will not do much to kick-start the economy.
In order to benefit fully from these tax cuts, an individual has to earn at least $81,500. That is not at all representative of the middle class. The people who are most affected by the economic crisis are those in the middle class. Income tax cuts would have been helpful if they had been targeted better at the middle class or people below the middle class who really do not earn very much. But that is not what the government did. It ensured once again that the people who really benefit from the tax cuts are the ones with very high salaries. That is not what the government should have been trying to do. Unfortunately, all this was supported by the Liberals, who have turned their backs on Quebec once again.
Another major point in the budget that we could highlight is the tax evasion issue. In 2007, the Conservative government took a step in the right direction and mandated a task force to see how double deductions could be eliminated for companies doing business outside of Canada. The task force made its recommendation to the minister, and he set out immediately to follow up on it. However, he went back on his word, and once again these companies can double dip. In the meantime—as he himself said in 2007—the government collects less tax because companies are double dipping and it is the middle class and small businesses that have to pay more. That is very unfair. I am just repeating here what the said in 2007, and he is still the same person.
We cannot understand why the government wants to make things easier for these companies to the detriment of the middle class, which ultimately includes most of the people of Canada and Quebec. Once again they are being cheated by the Conservative government, and that is very disappointing.
My colleague spoke just now about employment insurance. We know that the measures presented will benefit only 25% of those on employment insurance. This is not a measure that is equitable for everyone. We should have made the rules for accessing employment insurance more flexible and reduced the number of hours for people to qualify. We should have eliminated the two week waiting period.
Such measures would have been really attractive for all the people who are unemployed, and there are a lot of them. We are in an economic crisis, and a great many people have lost their job and need access to employment insurance. What is hurting them most with regard to employment insurance—I have said this before, because people in my riding whom I often meet with talk to me about it—is the two week waiting period before they can get their money. When people are periodic employment insurance claimants, they have to accumulate these two weeks from one year to the next, and they always have difficulty dealing with the problems this causes their family. Very often both spouses work in the same company which, year after year, has to close its doors temporarily. At this time much more than that is involved. Companies are not closing temporarily, but for good. This is one more reason for taking time to deal with these problems of people who are having great difficulty making ends meet.
We could talk for hours about the problems and major drawbacks to be found in this budget. The Conservative government has come up with this idea of non-lapsing appropriations and interim supply, and a $3 billion fund which some have termed a slush fund. We know very well that the government will strut around and try to score political points.
The fact that the Liberal Party and the Liberal members support such a measure takes us back to the whole sponsorship affair that eclipsed this Parliament for months a few years ago. Although the issue of transparency must be a concern for everyone in this House, we cannot be too surprised that the members of the Liberal Party should be supporting this request. We could be forgiven for thinking that they are going down a road they have already taken. Some very serious questions should be asked.
This is truly disappointing. We see that the Liberal Party will agree to give the Conservative government $3 billion that would be beyond the control of Parliament. That is the big question. Parliamentary control has always been an important standard for the elected officials of this chamber. The Conservative government, hand in hand with and supported by the Liberals, is going in this direction. Some very serious questions should be asked.
Nonetheless, the Liberal motion would force the government to a minimum level of accountability. However, it does not go far enough. Yes, it is a start, but the accountability is truly minimal. Requiring the government to post on a website tomorrow or the days that follow the list of committees and projects it will implement, etc. is a minimal measure which we will support. All the same, we are in fundamental disagreement on the very essence of this amount. We will continue to hound the Conservative government to make sure that the moneys in this “slush fund” will be disbursed legitimately. The details demanded in the Liberal Party’s motion are a beginning, but clearly insufficient.
I would also like to move an amendment to this motion. I move, seconded by the hon. member for , that the motion be amended by replacing the words “this House calls upon the government to table” with the words “this House requires the government to table”, in the two places where those words appear.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased also to have this opportunity to speak to the Liberal motion.
I must admit that they were particularly inspired in drafting this motion, since they have in large part copied mine. For a number of weeks we have been raising the idea in this House that the government ought to be more accountable to this House, hence our idea that accountability be required of the government.
The Liberal motion lacks a number of things, however. One point it fails to mention is that this is a secret fund, i.e. one that the government can dip into without parliamentary overview.
When looking at these issues it is sometimes important to understand the history of the parliamentary rules involved. This one is actually rather old. It goes back to Runnymede in 1215. In fact, the Magna Carta only mentions older forms of taxation such as scutages and aids. By the end of the 1200s, 1297 to be exact, Confirmatio Cartarum made it illegal to approve this type of spending except with the authorization of what was then the Commons.
It is the same thing here. This is one of the oldest rules in the British parliamentary system, that the executive is responsible for preparing a budget. Nobody questions that. What is at issue here is whether the House of Commons is going to be able to control that spending.
The Liberals are in a bit of a bind on this one because they have given the government a blank cheque. They love snapping their suspenders and claiming that they have put the government on probation. Of course, in fact they have given the government their approbation. They have approved everything every step of the way.
The reason they have done that, of course, is that they are afraid to stand up and say something in the House that would displease the government.
I caught one of the questions asked of the Liberal presenter earlier, and I found it quite interesting. One of the Conservatives asked how he was going to vote this afternoon. He stood up, blustered and said, “Of course I am going to vote for it. It is my motion”.
I think there might have been a little lesson in that from the Conservatives. It is now well over 60 times that the Liberals, first under the member for and now under the member for , have voted their confidence in the Conservatives. So they lack all credibility when they stand up in the House and claim that they want something done differently.
Here the Conservatives are undermining and attacking the very foundations of our parliamentary system. They are attacking the right of the House of Commons to supervise and provide oversight to government spending. They want a $3 billion blank cheque. It is not the first time in this whole budgetary process that the Conservatives have cynically taken advantage of the very real economic crisis to deliver poison pill after poison pill of their right-wing ideological agenda.
Let us look at some of the things that were in the budget that the Liberals backed and voted for.
Despite claims on the other side to be in favour of the Canadian Charter of Rights, despite the fact that Pierre Trudeau, a Liberal, brought in the Canadian Charter of Rights over a generation ago, Liberal member after Liberal member stood up and voted against a woman's right to have equal pay for work of equal value.
That is right. That is shameful, but that is what the Liberals did because they have no values. They simply do not believe anything.
We are going to get another demonstration of it today. After having voted for the budget and giving the blank cheque to the government, the Liberals are now going to stand up and claim that they want to put some sort of controls on it by asking for ex post facto rendering of account here in the House.
What else was in the budget in terms of a poison pill? The government has taken away social rights, legally negotiated bargaining rights. It has removed them with the stroke of the pen, and the Liberals have voted for it. It is removing the Navigable Waters Protection Act. These great believers in the environment, the same ones who signed Kyoto, saying they believed in the environment, what did they actually do on Kyoto? They presided over the single greatest increase in greenhouse gas production of any country in the world. That was the Liberals with 13 years in power.
It is a good thing that Eddie Goldenberg was kind enough to deliver a speech in the spring of 2007 before the London Chamber of Commerce and then put it into his book. He was former chief of staff of Jean Chrétien. He said that when the Liberals signed Kyoto, they had no plan and no intention of respecting it. He said that they signed it for the purpose of galvanizing public opinion. CQFD, it was a public relations stunt.
That is the Liberal Party of Canada. It talks a good game on rights and then puts in a leader who is already on the record as saying that the torture by a state of human beings can be justified because it is the lesser of two evils. It is the same leader who, from his august seat in a prestigious American university, encouraged George Bush in his invasion of Iraq.
That is the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada today and that is why Canadians have to know what the Liberals have done in the House in the past couple of weeks. They have abandoned any claim whatsoever to representing social or progressive ideals.
People have a right to know what the Liberal Party has become at this time. Today's events are further proof of that. Liberals are proposing, after spending $3 billion, that the Conservatives have to provide some sort of accounting to the House. What they are forgetting is they have already approved all that spending and have delegated that authority to the government.
However, the most interesting thing this afternoon is going to be whether the government makes this a confidence motion. If it does, we are going to watch the Liberals vote against themselves. It will not be the first time we have seen that. We have seen them propose something in the House, the government makes it a confidence motion and the Liberals vote against themselves. It is an absolutely pathetic spectacle, but one that we have grown used to.
Back in November, we were in full economic crisis. At the end of November, the Conservatives arrived in the House and were still predicting a budget surplus. It was total science fiction, but it was not going to stop them. They said that we were heading for a budget surplus. They brought in a fiscal and financial update. Instead of stimulating the economy like the G7 and the G20 said we had to do, they simply told a bald face lie to the Canadian people, saying we were heading for a budget surplus.
No such thing was going to happen, and that was clear from the analysis of Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer. That was clear from the analysis of every thinking private sector economist. Everybody knew that Canada was already in a deep recession.
Prior to that, Conservatives had said if we were going to be in a recession, it would have already happened. That was not true. Then when they finally had to admit we were in a recession, they invented a new category that only applied to the Conservatives, which was that Canada was only going to have a technical recession, whatever that was supposed to mean.
Then the Conservatives brought in the update. What did it have? It had an attack on women's rights. It had an attack on social collective bargaining rights. It had an attack on the clean party financing that was put in place in the wake of the biggest political financial scandal in Canadian history, the Liberal sponsorship scandal, wherein the Liberal Party and its agents stole millions of dollars from Canadian taxpayers. A clean party financing system was put in place and the Conservatives wanted to get rid of that with a stroke of the pen.
It is worth noting that two months later, on January 27 when the Conservatives brought in their budget, they were still removing a woman's right to equal pay for work of equal value. They were still removing union and social rights. The only thing they put back was clean party financing. Therefore, the Liberals stood and voted for it. That makes their priorities completely clear. The Liberals will only vote for it if they are taking care of themselves. Abandoning women's right to equal pay for work of equal value does not bother anybody in the Liberal Party of Pierre Trudeau any more. The Charter of Rights be damned. They do not care about any of that.
The Conservatives went further, though, in January. The attack on the environment was pre-announced when a document was leaked from the environment department, showing that they planned to gut environmental assessments in our country. They were going to put in a new rule that any project under $10 million would no longer require an environmental assessment.
Imagine for a second if that were brought in. A precious wetland, which a mayor of a municipality has been longing to backfill in order to put in an industrial. As long as the industrial park infrastructure is not more than $9.9 million, the mayor can fill in the precious wetland because there will not even be an environmental assessment any more.
It is not the economic value of the project; it is the environmental value of what one backfills and destroys. However, that does not matter to the Conservatives, either. They are removing the protection of the Navigable Waters Protection Act.
It was an interesting experience for me, having spent 15 years in Quebec City as an elected official and minister and 15 years prior to that as a director and president of a large regulatory agency. I did not know the lay of the land as well as some did in Ottawa, of the behaviour of the Liberal Party of Canada. Honestly, it is breathtaking and it is something to behold. We watched them day after day come in and complain about something.
I heard the hon. member for stand up and in a very moving speech in the House say how terrible it was that the Conservatives were taking away a woman's rights to equal pay for work of equal value. I met her in the hallway after that. I asked if she would do the same thing as the Newfoundland and Labrador members of Parliament on the Conservative side had done, which was to stand and vote against their party and the budget. She turned beet red and said that she would do whatever she could. I saw her stand and vote for the budget to remove a woman's right to equal pay for work of equal value. The Liberal member voted with the Conservatives.
That is what happened in the House in the past couple of weeks. The masks have fallen. Any pretence on the part of the Liberal Party of Canada to claim that it represents progressive ideas, that it represents a forward-looking Canada, something we have always been proud of, is now gone.
The only national party standing for those values and rights is the New Democratic Party of Canada. I am extremely proud to be part of the NDP, especially at this time.
There are a very small number of things that could have been done very quickly and without difficulty to help people in these grave economic times. Hundreds of thousands of people have been turned out of work. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to remove the two-week waiting period for employment insurance.
What happens when people lose their jobs and they have no money? Most people are a week away from not having money in their bank account. They use their credit cards. What are the banks charging on those credit cards? Maybe 18%, 20%, or 22%. That is the reality. People put the first couple of weeks on credit cards. They have even more trouble getting out of debt and are getting very low employment insurance premiums that are being offered so far.
Across Canada there is a patchwork quilt of qualifications rules for employment insurance, which could easily be standardized. We could put more money into retraining and it would have been very easy to do that but for one thing. The Conservatives stole $54 billion from the EI account, transferred it into the general revenue fund, supposedly to reduce the debt.
That money had been paid as premiums, the way we pay premiums on life, car, or home insurance. It was for a specific purpose, for the people and workers who were earning those dollars. Their employers also paid into that fund. That is why the move the Conservatives made at the time was so reprehensible, and, again, they were backed by the Liberal Party of Canada.
It is a bit rich to hear the Liberal members this week complaining about the employment insurance roll. They are the ones who gutted employment insurance and lowered premiums. Now they are backing the Conservatives because they are one and the same. Canadians are faced with the Conservative-Liberal alliance party. There is only one strong voice of reason and principle on these important issues right now in the House, and it is the NDP.
For the past three years, the Conservatives have hollowed out the industrial sectors of Ontario and Quebec. Prior to the current crisis that began at the end of last summer, more than 340,000 jobs had already been eliminated from the manufacturing and forestry sectors, mostly in Ontario and Quebec. In the case of forestry, B.C. was also very hard hit.
The reason for that is quite simple. The Conservative ideology is that governments do not have a role in the marketplace. There is a pristine market that comes up with the best solution in all these cases. What the Conservatives did was give away $60 billion to the most profitable corporations.
Why the most profitable? By definition, if a company in forestry or manufacturing was hard hit by the high Canadian dollar and had not made a profit last year, it did not get anything back from a tax reduction since it had not paid taxes. The $60 billion went to the oil and gas sectors and to the banks in particular. They got the lion's share of those reductions.
When the current crisis hit, the government no longer had the fiscal capacity to take care of people. The Conservative ideology is all about that. It reduces the ability of government to do its job.
It was interesting to see what happened in the cases of listeriosis and salmonella. Those are jobs that governments have been assuming in the western world for well over a century. The essence of a modern state is taking care of the public good. What could be more important than providing clean water, taking care of sewage and inspecting the food supply chain that goes out to people's homes? The Conservatives abandoned that, but the Liberals had started it before them.
Most galling is the current minister made jokes about people dying from listeriosis during the election campaign and he is still there. That is what is so shocking and appalling about the Conservative government and its callous attitude towards these issues of public interest, safety and protection.
We are going to have another case coming up very soon. The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police are on the public record saying not to reduce the protection offered by the gun registry. If that happens, society will be a more dangerous place. These are not a bunch of soft thinkers in a university setting. We are talking about the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. The Conservatives will still try to gut the gun registry because it corresponds to their ideology.
I have a son who has been a police officer for 10 years. I know my colleague from B.C. has two sons who are police officers. When my son goes to a house where there has been a case of domestic violence in the Lower Laurentians, it is important, to the extent possible, that he know whether there are registered firearms in the house. It is a question of public protection. That is why this gun registry has to be there.
This year is the 20th anniversary of the Polytechnique massacre. Shame on anyone in the House who can stand up and reduce the protection of the gun registry. Shame on anyone who would put the lives of police and the lives of their fellow citizens in danger. However, that is exactly what the Conservatives will try to do.
The Conservatives have tried to remove the protections of the state and the regulatory structures, whether it is in terms of food, transportation or the environment as we mentioned before. There are whole sectors of public and social protection that they want to remove. They have been in lockstep with their Liberal coalition partners, who every step of the way have voted to remove public protection and rights.
That is the scandal of a party that still bears the word liberty, liberal, in its name but does not believe a single thing. That is the Liberal Party of today, with its new right-wing leader. That is why the Liberals have no trouble offering their support to the Conservatives. They have the unmitigated conceit to claim to have put the government on probation. What a patent fraud. They have given the—
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I am pleased to have the opportunity to stand and speak to this motion today. As we have heard in the House already, this is very much a motion about trust, trust in this House of Commons and trust that Canadians do or do not have for their government.
While the Liberals agree that extraordinary action is needed to address the economic crisis, we believe that there is no need to sacrifice accountability while taking action. We are not requesting any additional red tape. We are asking the government to disclose, which can be done on a website as one of the tools, as we have done to hold it accountable. It is simply not credible for the government to ask for approval for spending but be unwilling to provide any details for it.
As parliamentarians, we have been duly elected by our constituents and we have a responsibility to examine, to perform due diligence and to know beforehand where these dollars will be going.
I would like to tell members a little about my own province of Manitoba. We hear the words “trust me” coming from across the way. There are challenges that those of us who are not in government face in Manitoba and in fact challenges faced by those in Manitoba who do not support the government.
I come from a small province. We know each other. We work together. We make things happen and frequently things happen in the jurisdiction of Manitoba way ahead of other jurisdictions because we cooperate. We work together. We know each other. We discuss and we collaborate and we make accommodations. However, we find some very serious problems with the current federal government. The Conservatives come before us in this House and tells us to trust them, that if we give them the money they will do it.
I come from a province where public servants of a different party and public servants across the board are often overtly intimidated by government members. That is a reality. The public discourse in Manitoba often includes misleading the public on the positions of elected representatives from other parties. That is a reality. Most recently, we had a cabinet minister in Manitoba sit outside the door of an auditorium keeping track of those who came and went when hearing the leader of another party speak.
Funding is announced, reannounced and reannounced once again, and little of the money flows. A disproportionate amount of the funding that is announced and that does flow does not go into ridings of opposition members. It only goes into ridings of cabinet members.
There are many more items of this sort that I could list.
The Conservatives' behaviour is troublesome. They tell us to trust them but their behaviour in Manitoba creates a climate of fear, a lack of trust and a lack of respect for other public figures, whether elected or non-elected. The government that campaigned on accountability said that it could not be held to account if Parliament did not know the accurate state of public finances. That was in its 2006 Conservative Party election platform.
How can the Conservatives be trusted with $3 billion when they have shown time and again that they cannot get the money out the door? I am repeating myself but I believe Canadians have a right to know ahead of time where their tax dollars are going to be spent and they have the right to know if these funds are being used solely for the proper economic stimulus measures that Parliament believes should be in place and that all Canadians can track, or whether these moneys are being used for partisan purposes and buying votes.
The issue is trust. The issue is the record that we have had in my province and it is an issue of great concern for us.
On the infrastructure projects, much has been said. In 2007, of the $8.8 billion building Canada fund, we know that only a small amount of it has flowed. The figure that is most commonly used is 6%, only $1.5 billion. So far the government committed only to $1.5 billion and only $97 million has flowed. The money is not out the door. Yet the Conservatives are asking us to please give them free access with this $3 billion slush fund. How can they be trusted with $3 billion of unaccountable money when they have not put out the dollars for the projects that have been announced and committed to and that have gone through the due diligence of department and Treasury Board surveillance?
The continually boasts that her department has funded the highest levels ever, but that money is not going out the door. In 2007-08, of the $30.1 million in total authorities, her department spent $25.3 million.
We know that there has been no proposal call since July 2008. Just this morning there was a group in my office asking when it will happen. We do not know. Why is this money not going out? Why is this money not flowing?
The $5 million that was slipped could have gone to women in need. It could have gone to projects denied by the government that we know met program criteria. Women's groups are being denied funding or being told where their funding must go. They are being told that they can have funding if it goes to a certain geographic area or program. Groups have received cuts and we know that women are being hardest hit by this recession.
We are also encountering a real discrepancy in status of women funding. We have heard members of the government in the status of women committee speak to the fact that we do not have the responsibility to fund areas that are within provincial jurisdiction, but there is a real ambivalence, because if a person can gain access to those programs that are funded by the status of women, and gaining access to them has become a bit of a challenge, we know that they are indeed crossing over into provincial jurisdiction. That is a challenge for us.
We also know that the criteria for program funding in status of women has changed with every subsequent minister. We have been asking for an opportunity to see the changing criteria. It has been weeks since we have asked for this both of the minister and of her senior bureaucrats and for some reason we cannot get it.
We talk about accountability and transparency, but there is virtually nothing on the website. Parliamentarians, the public and women's groups want to know, but there is nothing there.
Another issue I have with this $3 billion slush fund, for lack of a better comment as it relates to trust and transparency is that we have no indication to whom this money will go. That is a given. Do we know that it will go to the most vulnerable? Do we know that it will address poverty? Do we know that it will benefit Canadian women?
When we look at an analysis of the budget, we know that there was certainly no consideration of priority to the vulnerable. There was no consideration of priority to women. Again, transparency, trust, how can we count on the government to do it? It clearly wants a $3 billion blank cheque. I, for one, have a great deal of difficulty signing that blank cheque without the accountabilities that my colleague has proposed for the government.
As I mentioned earlier, the government has committed to funding time and time again in Manitoba, but the real challenge in Manitoba is that the money, when it is committed, trickles out, if it gets out. Continually there are announcements and reannouncements for major projects and press conferences are staged, but nothing is happening.
The Red River floodway expansion has been announced a few times. Of the $141.5 million committed to it, not all of it has gone forward to the floodway authority. We are waiting.
There is $18 million for Lake Winnipeg, the heart of the province of Manitoba. This funding has been announced and reannounced. There have been press opportunities and photo opportunities. People are waiting. The funding is not coming. There are small amounts coming out. This funding was announced in 2007 and 2008. If this money is not moving, why is a $3 billion slush fund needed?
Municipalities in my province need funding. Madam Speaker, as you are indicating that my time is up, let me just make the point that the Association of Manitoba Municipalities has been totally cut out of the infrastructure process. How can we trust a government that eliminates those who know best?
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to join this very important debate.
The motion moved by my colleague from urges the government to recognize the importance of the $3 billion it is about to spend. The government is planning to spend at least $3 billion, but it has not provided any details about where the money is to be spent.
This motion is very important. It will ensure that Canadians know where the money is going to be spent and that they understand why it is to be spent, which is to stimulate the economy and help the people whom we, as members of Parliament, are very concerned about.
We want the government to be transparent, and we want to make sure that we have a good idea of where the money is to be spent.
I am obviously very pleased to have this opportunity today to speak to this very important issue introduced by my colleague, the member for . I know that while there is opportunity for us to demonstrate and to talk about the political side of this, I think the most important part of this is the insurance that we have a modicum of accountability that is consistent with the traditions of this House, with the committees, and with the traditions that Canadians expect that their government be accountable for every penny that it spends, particularly in difficult times.
The suggestion has been made, and I have heard it here from hon. colleagues on the government side, that somehow this is playing politics. I can assure members that what was playing politics was turning an economic crisis into a political crisis, and vice versa, when the government decided to pull away from this Parliament for two months and try to re-figure its program.
Of course, it is clear the government itself did not understand the import or did not want to understand the import of the looming crisis which members on this side, members like myself in committee and others, were well aware of over a year, a year and a half ago. I am reminded of the evidence of my good colleague from Edmonton, I believe, who was chair of the industry committee in November 2007 during the looming credit crisis.
I also, last year, indicated that there was a real concern with respect to the distortions in energy crisis which would have a troubling affect on the health and well-being of our economy.
The government is now, after several months of denial, calling an election, obfuscating, ignoring the obvious signs that are troubling around the world and that somehow Canada would escape these things. However, there is a final recognition forced by this party, forced by this Parliament, to effectively come forth with a stimulus program.
On this we do not disagree. But what is important, what is critical, and what is fundamental is that we observe the need to ensure that the moneys that are spent, which our children and our grandchildren might ultimately have to pay for, are spent wisely and with the maximum impact that provides not only transparency for us as parliamentarians, but I think for Canadians in general.
For those reasons, I support the motion presented by my colleague, the critic for finance and member for . I think it is an important step at demonstrating to Canadians that they can continue to have trust in the members that they elect and that are there to represent their needs at a very critical time.
I am very concerned that we are now in a situation where the government seems willing to resist, the government seems willing to move away from its sworn obligations, in fact, its own rhetoric that it used in many campaigns about transparency. We are asking for due diligence. We are asking that Parliament be given the authority, the right, which it has always had, to ask of the government how it intends to disburse funds. That is the essence of why we have a Parliament, a government that has to be accountable, that has to be responsible to this House. If we rupture that or break that or change the tradition because we suggest that extraordinary times justify bending the rules and changing the traditions, I suggest that in the day we will lose confidence and the trust the public has in our institutions.
In difficult times, as we have learned from previous crises and recessions, there were always concerns about trade impacts, there were concerns about how to stimulate the economy, but always, and it does not matter what historical version we take or the one that we saw in 1981-82 when we had a recession, it was absolutely critical that Canadians had a modicum of understanding and faith that governments in difficult times would stand up for them and that they would have an appreciation and understanding of the extent to which that action was taking place.
We have been flying blind. The government says that the $3 billion that it is prepared to put forward is one of those things where we simply have to trust the government and it will tell us down the road. I raised these questions with the and with the , but here is what we had yesterday, March 23, from the Auditor General:
It’s not unreasonable. $3 billion is a fair bit of money and they must have ideas, even in broad strokes, how that money will flow between April and June.
And here is the kicker:
I must say that I don’t buy the argument that they can’t tell them something — maybe not the detail of, say, what festival, or how much, but they could at least say where the money is going, whether it’s (to) infrastructure or festivals.
It seems to me that the very Auditor General who the House relies upon has sent a very clear signal. Take away the partisanship and the politics. In the past, the Conservatives have talked about their willingness to be transparent. The purpose for which this motion has come forward should be an easy one. It asks the government for four conditions: provide what the funding is, where it is going, how much will be spent in that particular area, and what impact that will have in terms of achieving the stimulus that we all agree needs to be done.
Sooner or later, the government is going to have to determine where that money is. I am hoping it is not covering up something that is embarrassing. However, what else can we conclude? We have seen a government that has let $2 billion to $3 billion in the previous budget lapse and made announcements that have had absolutely no impact. Those programs were never spent upon and as a result we have a situation in Canada today where programs need to be funded.
We need to know what departments are receiving those funds. We need some degree and modicum of accountability. If we do not have that, I would humbly suggest that we turn out the lights and all return home because the government obviously has a plan. It does not want to tell us what it is, but it takes the point of saying let us—