House of Commons Hansard #117 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity for more time to make some comments on the budget bill, Bill C-48. Obviously the New Democrats are very happy with the budget.

I know that my colleagues on the Conservative benches keep insisting this was a budget that was done on a napkin or the back of an envelope. The reality is that this budget resulted from the NDP meeting with a number of groups that wanted to see changes and improvements within the budget.

We knew what Canadians wanted. We knew where there were faults within the first budget and where we wanted to see changes made. A number of days stretched into evenings and late hours of the night while we were negotiating changes and improvements to that budget. It was not done with a quick snappy “this is what we want” attitude. It was done seriously and with a focus on maintaining what our leader has said from day one: a belief in a balanced budget.

I have supported that. As someone who has been involved in municipal politics as part of a school board, I know it is important to stick within budget mandates. I totally support that. Our leader supports it and this is what we have followed through on.

Part of the criteria for this change was that we wanted these changes made but we still wanted to see a balanced budget. That is what we have. This attitude that somehow it is going to put us grossly in debt and is the downfall as a nation is just not accurate. I think the Conservatives do themselves an injustice by suggesting this, because it is not the case.

There is one fact that I cannot seem to understand. I do not know where the Conservatives are coming from on this. It is in regard to how it is somehow awful that NDP is getting $4.6 billion that is going back to Canadians in services.

There will be $4.6 billion going back to the Canadian taxpayers for affordable housing, which is absolutely crucial to the nation, not only in my riding and first nations communities, where it is desperately needed, but throughout the nation. Seniors need affordable housing as well. Even in smaller rural communities housing stock has reached a point where changes are needed.

We need a type of independent living arrangement whereby seniors can move out of their own homes but still have a focus on independent living. They may need additional types of housing to support that situation. Under affordable housing they may be able to get that type of housing. It is a crucial need. Somehow the Conservatives expect that as a New Democrat I should feel shame that we fought for this within the budget, but it is not going to happen. I take great pride in the changes that were made to the budget, affordable housing being number one.

The second area is the additional dollars for education. How many of us stand on numerous occasions saying that it is crucially important for us to have a trained and educated nation? The Conservatives do it as well. Then, when we work within the budget to provide additional dollars to support students and educational facilities, somehow we should feel shame that we obtained that for Canadians? It is not going to happen. I take great pride in the fact that we obtained additional dollars for education support.

There are additional dollars to assist developing nations. Again, this is greatly needed. All opposition parties sent letters to the Prime Minister indicating the need for additional dollars and now somehow that was wrong thing to do? I do not think so.

There are additional dollars for Kyoto and improving on the environment. I have received comments from around my own riding and from the municipalities stating appreciation for those dollars as well as the dollars they are going to receive from the gas taxes. Why would we feel bad about that?

Who should be feeling bad? It is the Conservatives who should be feeling bad. They are saying that it was somehow okay to give $4.6 billion in tax cuts to corporations.

I want to add something to that. Part of the deal was as well to ensure that small and medium sized businesses would maintain their tax breaks. Those are the businesses in each and every one of our small towns throughout the nation, in every rural and remote community. They are not the large corporations that can take a lot of their assets offshore and skirt around our tax rules, which a number of them do already. They are not the banks, which make billions of dollars. A lot of them are not even paying taxes.

We are not there to ensure that they get corporate tax cuts. Over the years they have had a number of tax cuts. There were already tax cuts in place for those corporations and they are still going to proceed. These were additional tax cuts for corporations. Somehow as New Democrats we should feel bad that we said no, we are not going to accept $4.6 billion in corporate tax cuts while the Liberals do not give back services to Canadians? That is not acceptable.

It is beyond me how the Conservatives think Canadians will be fooled by their attitude that somehow by giving back to Canadians in services we in the NDP have brought the country down and we are not going to have businesses investing in anything. We all know already that businesses, in spite of getting numerous tax cuts, were still moving offshore and were still finding loopholes to take their taxes out of this country. That is not acceptable.

Built into the plan was a balanced budget, a balanced approach. If the surplus is not there, then there is no flow. That is acknowledged. My colleague from the Conservatives said there is probably a $10 billion surplus. We are talking about $4.6 billion. We all know and expect that in reality the surplus is even greater because the Liberals have made so many cuts and have not followed through on many programs. We are going to try to make sure this happens. The way to do it is as a group of parliamentarians insisting that it happen, so that all Canadians benefit, not just corporations benefiting from tax cuts.

If the surplus is not there, we acknowledge that the dollars will not flow, but the reality, and we all know it, is that the surplus is there. I will be the first to admit that although this is a better balanced budget than what was there before, it certainly is not everything. The sure way to make it everything for Canadians is to put people in charge of the government and the country who are going to follow through on their word and make sure those things happen.

We know that is not going to happen with the Conservatives. They agreed with the Liberals that $4.6 billion in tax cuts to corporations was the first route to take. They supported it. They still insist they supported that first budget. We came along and said no, that is not acceptable, and the government is going to give back to Canadians. The sure way of ensuring that Canadians get the dollars flowing for them is to put more New Democrats in the House and put them in charge. Ideally that is when we will see the best results for Canadians.

When my colleagues say there was nothing extra for agriculture, they are absolutely right. Of course we would have loved to see additional supports for agriculture, but again, in negotiations there is give and take. We were following a plan of what we had to work with. We said we would maintain a balanced budget, but absolutely there should be more assistance for agricultural producers throughout the country.

Absolutely there should have been changes with EI and dollars flowing to workers who have lost numerous benefits over time, but again, I did not see the Conservatives getting in there and saying they wanted money for agriculture after the first budget. They did not say they wanted money for workers. They were accepting that budget with nothing in it. We went in with a minority negotiating position, we accept that, using what we had to get something better for Canadians.

There is an ideal way to get even more for Canadians and to ensure that what comes into the tax coffers in Ottawa means fairness in our tax system and fairness and balance in how those dollars go back to support our nation and Canadians overall. That is to put others in charge who are going to follow through, who are not just going to make up stories and promises for 12 years as the Liberals have done.

I admit it. I have to wonder if Liberals are going to follow through. We are putting our trust in them to do so, but that trust is based on the fact that they are in a minority position. They know Canadians are already questioning their integrity. They know that if they do not follow through on this, they are done for with Canadians, because on top of the scandal with Gomery, Canadians will know they were not going to follow through on a budget that Canadians have told us they want.

The municipalities have told us that and individual Canadians have told us that. People in my riding have told me that. Only one person in my riding wanted an election and wanted the government to fall. All the rest of them said they wanted us to make it work and that we were doing a fantastic job. They said they wanted us to make Parliament work and they wanted the budget we have worked out to pass because it is the budget that is going to help them out.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Simcoe—Grey, China; the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, Agriculture.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments but she is a member of the opposition and I would have expected that as a member of the opposition she would be doing her job in this chamber by opposing the government, as opposed to attacking us.

It astounds me that the NDP consistently attacks the Conservatives when in fact we are the opposition in this House and we are not in control of the levers of government. It just astounds me why she would go out of her way to attack us, as opposed to holding this government to account. I would suggest to her that she ought to do that.

However she made a number of statements here that cannot go uncountenanced in this House.

The real issue she needs to understand is that the $4.5 billion side deal that was cooked up in a hotel room is fiscally irresponsible and, more important, the way in which this money is to be spent is even more irresponsible. The spending increase in this budget represents the single largest spending increase over the last two or three decades in this country.

Furthermore, the Liberal government, over the last five years, has increased program spending on a per capita basis by 5%. It therefore is a fiscally irresponsible deal.

Furthermore, the way in which this deal was cooked up is completely ad hoc and does serious damage to the confederation. This deal is on less than two pages in Bill C-48 and it is totally vague on what it will do for the country. These side deals do serious damage to confederation.

When we look at these side deals, such as $1.6 billion for this, $500 million for that, $900 million for that and $1.5 billion for that, these are not part of any ongoing program arrangements or part of the equalization formula. These are simply one-off deals. These one-off deals do serious damage to confederation and the member's party has agreed to this.

In agreeing to this damaging deal, a deal that does serious damage to confederation, is the member also in agreement with her colleague and ally at the Canadian Labour Congress allowing the first non-leader of the NDP, the first separatist leader ever, to appear at this convention? Does the NDP agree in allowing the first leader from a party other than the NDP to address a tri-annual convention at the Canadian Labour Congress? Does she agree with that?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, first, the Canadian Labour Congress is an independent body. We are in a democratic country. It can choose to have whomever it likes to come and speak at its conventions. It was in the province of Quebec. I would think if it chose to have the leader of the Bloc appear that is certainly its choice. As I said, we are in a democracy. Although there are some who kind of switch between accepting democracy and not, that is not the case with us. It is not our call. It is an independent body that does a fantastic job on behalf of workers in this country.

In regard to speaking today in support of Bill C-48, it is our bill. It would be a bit ridiculous for me to stand up here as a New Democrat and say that I will not support Bill C-48 when it is our deal. Of course I will support it, in the same way that I supported the government's bill on corporate manslaughter. It came out of my private member's bill. The government finally brought it through but I supported it because it was the right thing to do for Canadian workers. I support this budget because it is the right thing to do for Canadians.

Just being in opposition does not mean we have to oppose everything. It means we have to make sensible decisions based on benefits for Canadians, and that is what is happening here today. That did not come from the Conservatives.

With regard to the bill being on a page and a half or two pages, quality is much more important than quantity. We got all those improvements for Canadians on a page and a half, and maybe the member should take that to heart.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to speak in the House today and address the chamber and all Canadians concerning Bill C-48, the Liberal-NDP budget deal.

I know how the government operates after having dealt with various departments trying to get money that has been promised for a long time.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Do you need help with the big numbers?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

I do not need much help with big numbers because it states in clause 1, “the Minister of Finance may, in respect of fiscal year 2005-2006”, and he may not, “the Minister of Finance may, in respect of fiscal year 2006-2007” and he may not “shall not exceed”. It does not say “will” not exceed. It says “shall not exceed”. It means that there is no minimum.

My point is that Bill C-48 has nothing for Canadians. I have dealt with affordable housing issues for the longest time and $360 million have been stuck in the affordable housing market for I do not know how long. The money cannot get out because the government attaches strings to it so it cannot be spent.

When I came to the House, $1 billion was put into infrastructure. Today there is still roughly $1 billion and it has just started to be paid out in this last little while. It sat there for over a year.

Do we feel that this $4.6 billion will ever be paid out. I doubt that very much.

I want to speak to the bill today because it speaks to one of the fundamental reasons for all of us to be here. The most important reason for any member to come to the House should be out of the desire to help make families' lives better. That is my goal and I know it is shared by my colleagues in the Conservative Party of Canada.

We need to strive to bring forth legislation that helps Canadians make our country the most prosperous nation in the world. Canadians deserve the highest standard of living in the world. We want an environment in which each and every Canadian may have a job. Economic growth and opportunity should not just exist in certain pockets of the nation but should be a reality in all areas and all regions of Canada.

Canadians should not have to move from their place of birth in order to chase opportunity. Canadians should not have to abandon their traditions and local culture as well as their family ties in a region simply to chase a dollar.

The Conservatives want for Canadians what every mother and father all across Canada want: for children to get a good quality education that eventually leads to a good job in a safe and secure environment, to perhaps start their own business, to own their own home, to put away some extra money to secure their future retirement and be able to go out for the occasional pizza or afford tickets to a ball or hockey game.

If we do a good enough job maybe Canadians can have those things but it will only happen if we as parliamentarians make sure governments spend within their means and do not overspend and do not overtax.

My biggest problem with the bill is that it calls for additional money to be spent without a clear plan. My problem is not with the money for affordable housing, for the environment, for foreign aid, for post-secondary education and for aboriginal housing. Everything that is in the bill is good quality but there is no plan on how it is ever going to be spent. I cannot support the bill because it is just vague.

Mr. Speaker, please forgive me for this, but I have trouble trusting the government. We have seen from the government in the past that it cannot be trusted with blank cheques. Whenever we let the Liberal government spend taxpayer money without a plan, it is an absolute blueprint for waste and mismanagement.

The Deputy Prime Minister said, “This is not just a Liberal budget. It is a Liberal-NDP budget”. If all this increased spending is such a good idea, then why did the Liberals not have it in their initial budget.

Canadians see this budget for what it is: a bad deal by a desperate Liberal government to cling to power no matter the cost and with no consideration for the crushing burden this may place on young Canadians.

What about those who actually believe some of the Liberal government's promises and who actually believe it will follow through with them? We will just see more broken promises, more plans made that are never completed and more undelivered goods.

I have spoken before in the House about the terrible shame of false hope. Bill C-48 is another sad example of the terrible effects of false hope. The Liberal government should stop letting down those in society who most need government assistance and services.

This is very troubling because I and my colleagues in the Conservative Party recognize that the Liberal government is not currently able to offer Canadians the kind of social assistance they require. Often it is because the Liberals, as in Bill C-48, choose to write cheques with taxpayer money without first having a plan in place. This can be envisioned in the various agricultural plans that have fallen on their face in the last two years.

Why would we throw more money at a problem when the current policy is not meeting the objectives? As Conservatives, we have tried to be constructive and to assist in the budget process. At committee, however, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition defeated attempts by my Conservative colleagues to restore principles of prudent fiscal management and real solutions for Canadians in this budget.

This leaves us in somewhat of a difficult position. Canadians see this money being offered and they view votes on the budget as Christmas eve, but once the budget passes, they are surprised the next morning after they wake up and there are no presents waiting for them under the tree.

In my own riding, the council of the municipality of Stratford even passed a motion asking me to vote to pass the budget. I have tried to make everyone in my riding aware that the Conservatives would honour Liberal promised tax revenues being returned to the city. In fact, it was a Conservative idea to begin with.

We on this side understand that there will not be any actual presents for Canadians, just promises, and we will not play that game. The assumption that tax revenues will not be directed to Canadian municipalities with the defeat of the Liberal government is simply not true.

The Conservative Party of Canada has clearly indicated it will honour the deals that have been previously negotiated by the Liberal government, including such initiatives as gas tax transfers, the Atlantic accord and the child care agreements between the federal government and the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, even if those child care agreements do not cover everyone.

As a businessman and as a parliamentarian, I have always believed that the workers are the most important asset of any business. Supporting the workers of this country is one of the reasons that I support the corporate tax cuts that were announced in the original budget. It was estimated that these tax breaks could produce as many as 300,000 new jobs. I find it surprising that the New Democratic Party would oppose such a measure that would generate jobs for hardworking Canadians.

The Conservatives have presented an amendment to clause 1 that would raise the amount of surplus that would be set aside for debt paydown. It is easy to overlook the importance of this but the savings in interest would be massive and allow future governments the flexibility to increase money offered to Canadians in key areas of social spending.

Our amendment to clause 2 would force the government to table a plan by the end of each year outlining how it intends to spend the money in the bill.

My Conservative colleague's amendment to clause 3 would ensure that important accountability and transparency mechanisms were in place for corporations wholly owned by the federal government. All government programs should be accountable and transparent so that Canadians may judge them for themselves.

I take my work at committee very seriously and very much appreciate the good work of Conservatives on the committee. It is a shame that the government routinely ignores the good work done at committee.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the concern that there are no details in Bill C-48, I am curious as to whether or not there were any more details in Bill C-43. My understanding is that both budgets were written with the same sort of process. It is just that in this case, Bill C-48 is an NDP budget and Bill C-43 was the Liberal government's budget.

My colleague seems to have an objection to the fact that there are no details in Bill C-48. Could he tell me whether or not there were more details in Bill C-43 and, if so, what they were?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there were a lot of details in Bill C-43. I have dealt with affordable housing issues. We have heard the minister stand over there and tell us that there is $1.5 billion in Bill C-48.

If I were negotiating a deal, I would have put some teeth into it to ensure that the government spends the money. I sat and listened to stakeholders in my riding. The stakeholders in my riding heard one thing and then when the bill came out it was something different. I would have hoped that Bill C-48 would have had some teeth in it. It is $4.6 billion sitting there for the government to spend at will whenever it feels like it. That is where I stand.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, we now have an admission that there were no more details in Bill C-43 than Bill C-48, yet the Conservatives supported Bill C-43 even though they do not trust what they say is a corrupt government. When one takes Gomery into question, there certainly is that attitude.

If the government is not spending those dollars for Canadians, the teeth that we now have is a minority position. Canadians know that the dollars are there. They are going to go at the government and so are we. If we want the teeth, then let us have all the teeth from across the way, from the Conservatives and the Bloc, on the government as well to ensure that those dollars do go to Canadians.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is about time that maybe we all work together to make the government hold to what it says. One difference between Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 is that there were tax cuts in Bill C-43. They were not all exactly outlined. When would they come into effect? We are not sure, but they were at least there. The member talked earlier about companies going offshore. Why do they go offshore? They go offshore to get a better tax rate. That has been admitted in the House. Why not keep those companies here by cutting taxes?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member seems to have a lot of advice for the NDP on what we should have done in the negotiations and how Bill C-48 could have been so much better than the job that we did. If the opposition believes that it could do such a good job and such a better job than the NDP then why did the opposition fold the hand it held before the budget speech was even presented?

We saw the Leader of the Opposition roll in and advise the Canadian people that the Conservative Party was going to support the budget as is. Why did the opposition members not hold the government to account and have their own negotiations, and come up with the perfect budget the way the member said they could have done?

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened for the last two or three weeks to the members in the corner over there slam dunking the Conservatives all the time. The Conservatives have not been in power for the last 12 years. It has been the Liberals. We are slam dunked every time. That is exactly what the Liberals have done any time that we have come forth with any amendments, whether it be in committee or the House. Our amendments are shot down. I guess that is going to be my answer.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I oppose Bill C-48, the NDP-Liberal budget, because it is fiscally irresponsible and creates a danger to the federation. It creates fiscal arrangements that are a tangled web and lays some very dangerous markers down for future years.

For example, Bill C-48 is full of one off deals. There are one-off deals for affordable housing, foreign aid, the environment and post-secondary education. This is not the way to approach financing the federation. This is not a way to provide long term, stable funding for program spending. This is completely irresponsible. This was a deal that was cooked up as an act of desperation and something that is going to do some serious long term damage to this country.

The other problem with this bill is that it represents one of the largest increases in government spending in the last three decades. In the last five years alone, government spending has increased 20% on a per capita basis. This too is fiscally irresponsible because it provides a risk that in future years, when the economy slows down or enters a period of either zero or even negative growth, we will face increasing difficulties in balancing our budgets.

All these problems, with the large increases in spending and the tangled web of fiscal arrangements that the government has managed to find itself in, point to the fact that the government has no focus. It has no plan for the fiscal arrangements of Confederation. Another area this budget fails to address is the needs of small town and rural Ontario. These municipalities face huge infrastructure costs.

I will give two examples in my riding of Wellington--Halton Hills. The township of Centre Wellington has a population of about 22,000. It has over 100 bridges. In that township alone, we are facing a bridge repair cost of about $15 million over the next several years. That is a huge number for a rural township with a population of only about 22,000 and an annual operating budget of about $15 million. In Halton Hills, I have been told that there is a backlog of about $57 million in roadwork and other infrastructure. That is an equally big number for a community with only about 50,000 people and with an annual operating budget of about $20 million.

While these numbers may seem small to those in this House, if one were to extrapolate them to a large city such as the city of Toronto with a population of about 2.5 million, one would get an infrastructure backlog of about $1.7 billion to $2.9 billion.

Rural communities, with their scattered populations and their huge infrastructure, face the same kinds of challenges that are faced by more densely populated areas. We in this House should not forget these rural communities that are the lifeblood of this country. However, that side of the House has forgotten rural and small town Ontario as well as rural and small town Canada.

The government's gas tax plan forgets rural communities in small towns. Under the government's plan, smaller communities will get less of the gas tax than more densely populated areas. Witness its approach to the gas tax for towns and cities. The city of Toronto, with only 20% of the population in Ontario, is getting 50% of the gas tax money. Toronto is getting $1.1 billion of the $2.2 billion in gas tax money, even though it only has one-fifth the population. Rural areas with small towns desperately need this money.

The lack of detail and action means more closed bridges, more deteriorating roads and, ultimately, higher property taxes because the money for rural townships, cities and towns must come from somewhere. It means that seniors in my riding, like Maria Kurath and Margaret Alexander in Rockwood, may have to sell their homes because they cannot afford to pay their property taxes. These are the real life stories of what happens when a government only addresses the needs of half the country.

People in Wellington—Halton Hills and across rural and southern Ontario pay just as many taxes as those in more densely populated areas. In fact, they pay more in gas taxes because of the longer distances involved in travelling these rural ridings. Yet the government is siphoning money away from these areas to more densely populated areas, despite the fact that these rural areas face the same kind of infrastructure challenges that are faced by the more densely populated areas.

The areas of Wellington County, Simcoe County, Halton region, Peel region, Dufferin County, York region, Oxford County, Brant County, Niagara region, Waterloo region and Hamilton-Wentworth, just to name a few, are being shortchanged by the government's budget .

The problem with this budget is its ad hoc asymmetrical approach to the fiscal arrangements of the federation. It has created a Canada of haves and have nots. Witness the government's approach to equalization which is an ad hoc approach with side deals for some provinces, pitting one province against another and one region against another.

Witness its approach to child care which is a two tier system, one for families who can afford to access locally licensed day care and nothing for those for whom there are simply no locally licensed day cares or who choose to stay at home. A child care system that creates only 120,000 fully subsidized spots for six million Canadian children aged 12 and under is not a universal system and is not fair.

Witness its approach to the gas tax for towns and municipalities in this budget. The city of Toronto, with only 20% of the population in Ontario, is getting 50% of the money. Toronto is getting $1.1 billion of the $2.2 billion in gas tax money even though it only has one-fifth the population. This is simply not fair. We need a fair formula for the distribution of the gas tax money based on a per capita basis. If we were to give additional moneys to public transit, and I support public transit, we should do so, but through a separate formula from general government revenues, so that small towns and rural areas in Ontario and across the country are not shortchanged.

I support more money for cities, but I do not support creating an unfair formula that leaves half the country behind. I support a fair formula so that both rural areas and cities in this country can move forward together in the 21st century.

I have ridden the TTC. I have lived and worked in the city of Toronto for many years and I appreciate the challenges the TTC faces. The government has neglected the TTC for over 10 years. Ridership is down, the number of buses on the road are down, and the number of subway trains running are down despite the fact that the city has exploded in population. The government finally reacts with an ad hoc formula that leaves half the country behind and only addresses the needs of the other half.

I reiterate the point that we need a fair formula for both cities and rural areas in this budget. We have problems addressing infrastructure in both cities and rural areas, but the government leaves half the country behind in this budget. For these reasons, I am opposed to the NDP-Liberal side deal as evidenced by Bill C-48.

An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Charlottetown
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am curious about the member's definition of fiscally irresponsible. We are dealing with Bill C-48 and talking about $4.5 billion over two years for public transit, access to post-secondary education and affordable housing, with the clear caveat that we are not going into deficit.

However, when the party of the member opposite was last in power, the annual deficit was not $4.4 billion. It was $43 billion. Interest rates were 11%, unemployment was around 10% or 11% and the country was basically bankrupt.

My question for the member opposite is this. What is the basis and rationale for calling this small bill, a bill with this relatively small amount of money, fiscally irresponsible and the results of the last Conservative government, when the annual deficit was $43 billion, as being fiscally responsible? I am having difficulty with coming to a conclusion as to how the member can call one responsible and one irresponsible.