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

7:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Mulroney figured it out before that.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

The member knows there is a lag in terms of when economic policy is implemented and it actually takes effect.

The fact is that the Liberal-NDP coalition set it up so that the Conservatives had a very difficult time in office. Operationally there was a surplus in terms of incoming money, but the problem was what I referred to earlier: the debt was so big at that time. The yearly payments to service that debt were so large that it caused an increase in the debt up to $400 billion.

Those members created the problem and they are making it worse with what they are doing right now.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-48. I have listened to presentations that have been made here today and in the past.

As members know, I am a rookie member. As one of my colleagues pointed out, I am approaching the end of my rookie year. It is my understanding that Bill C-43 is actually the budget, that the government goes through a budgetary process every year, and this year when that document came forward, it was named Bill C-43.

The Minister of Finance spent months working with his officials and stakeholders to develop a fiscal framework that would serve as a budget for the country for a year. Bill C-43 is called “An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005”. First reading was on March 24.

It is important for Canadians who may be watching this on TV tonight to remember that there is one budget, Bill C-43. That is the budget and it has been passed. I might add that when this was brought forward in the wintertime both the Bloc and the NDP quickly said they were going to vote against the budget. It was very clear to us as the official opposition that if we opposed the budget we would actually trigger an election in the wintertime.

While we did not support everything in the budget, and while there were several provisions we liked that did not go far enough or fast enough, we concluded that we did not want to defeat the government and cause an unnecessary election at that time. We abstained on that bill.

Subsequently there have been a couple of changes made to Bill C-43. That has caused our party to vote in favour of it. As we have said all along, it is not perfect, but it takes several steps in the right direction and we can live with it. That is really what it boils down to. Some of my caucus colleagues had to hold their noses when they voted for it, I think, but at the end of the day we did vote to support Bill C-43.

Bill C-48 is not the budget. It is not a budget, it is not the budget, it is not part of the budget, it is not an amendment to the budget and it is not a supplement to a budget. It is an illegitimate child conceived in a hotel room in downtown Toronto between the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP; I can picture the two of them sitting there on the ends of two beds talking about what they were going to do.

They drafted Bill C-48. It would be interesting for Canadians to actually see a copy of Bill C-43. It is 110 pages long and filled with all kinds of complicated language and references to other supporting documents. If they were to see a copy of Bill C-48, they would see that it is only two pages long.

The rigour that went into the budget and the legions of bureaucrats who spent time knitting this together as something that could work for Canada were not in that hotel room. There were only two people in that hotel room and they wrote something that even in both official languages is only two pages long.

I have had some debate with my colleagues about whether this was initially written on a napkin; we debated whether it was and then whether they had to use both the front and the back of the napkin to get it all down. We all know that not so many years ago the previous prime minister presented what was essentially a handwritten note on a napkin and suggested that it had legal status and the people of Canada should have believed that it was a legitimate document.

Bill C-48 was a deal cooked up between the Prime Minister and the leader of the NDP and it served no purpose other than trying to defend the Prime Minister and keep him in power for a few more months. That is the bottom line. I would argue that the brevity of this document, the fact that there is almost nothing here, is proof of that point.

I remember when this came out. The leader of the NDP crowed that it was a great deal for Canadians. He crowed that it was a great victory for his party. He threw that $4.6 billion number around. He crowed about the fact that the corporate tax cuts he disagreed with had been removed.

Since that time it has been interesting to watch the government backpedal on this, saying that it is not really $4.6 billion, that the government will only spend the money if there is an unexpected surplus. Given that the government is setting the budget, one would think if it was being honest with Canadians and there was going to be surplus, it would know about it in advance.

Presuming that the Minister of Finance actually intends to deliver what he said he was going to deliver in the budget, there will not be an unintended surplus, in which case this will never happen. It raises the question as to whether the Prime Minister was being disingenuous with the leader of the NDP, whether the Minister of Finance was being disingenuous with the people of Canada, or whether it was the leader of the NDP who was being disingenuous with the people of Canada. That is on the spending side.

On the tax cut side, the leader of the NDP crowed that he had killed the corporate tax cuts. One of the parts of the original budget that we supported was the idea that there were corporate tax cuts. We thought they should have been introduced more quickly and that the cuts should have been deeper, but we at least agreed with the principle that we needed to move in that direction. We thought it was something we could work with moving forward.

The NDP ideologically disagreed with that at the time and that was to be expected. The leader of the NDP puffed up his chest and said that the NDP got the corporate tax cuts killed. Now we hear the Minister of Finance saying that is not really true, maybe they will be taken out and maybe they will not, but even if they are, they will be reintroduced later.

Again I ask the question of who is not telling the truth in this story. When we consider what the leader of the NDP has said, what the Minister of Finance has said, and what the Prime Minister has said, they do not add up. Somebody is being misled. Either this is meaningful, it means something and real consequences will come as a result of this bill, which is what the NDP suggests, or as the government now suggests, nothing very substantial will come as a result of this, “We will put the tax cuts back in somewhere else. We were honest with Canadians when we laid out our initial budget. We are not expecting an unexpected surplus and we can only spend these dollars if there is an unexpected surplus, so it actually does not meaning anything”.

In conclusion on this point, I say to Canadians that Bill C-43 is the budget. Bill C-48 is not the budget. It is a deal that was cut later. It is a piece of legislation before the House. Many of my colleagues today have argued very eloquently that their problem with this bill is that there was no due diligence, that there is no plan. There is $4.6 billion in proposed spending with no provisions for how that money is going to get spent. That is a very legitimate concern.

At the end of the day this bill is a political convenience, a piece of politically convenient politics. The two principals that negotiated it are arguing almost the opposite outcomes of what it is going to mean. It behooves all members of the House, in particular those in the opposition, to exercise their due diligence. It is part of our responsibility as members of the House, as watchdogs on the government, to make sure it is spending our money properly and doing things in the proper way.

It is inconceivable to me that anyone would suggest that Bill C-48 was developed through any appropriate or reasonable process or that there was ever any due diligence or anywhere close to the amount of due diligence that was necessary. The irony, of course, is the actual title of Bill C-48, “an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments”. Someone should have put in brackets “the Minister of Finance who was not even there when the deal was done”.

My last point is that all Canadians know that there was great stress between the previous prime minister and the previous minister of finance, but I do not think the previous prime minister ever took the feet out from underneath his finance minister the way the present Prime Minister took the feet out from under his finance minister with this shoddy piece of legislation.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was going to sit back and just let the Conservatives go back and forth at each other and enjoy the humour of a lot of the comments, but I cannot help but make a few comments through you to the self-pronounced rookie.

It is crucially important for him to recognize, as I pointed out to one of his colleagues earlier, that the same process which is in Bill C-48 is in Bill C-43. Bill C-48, whether he likes it or not, is a piece of budget legislation as pronounced by the government, because until we get rid of the Liberals as a government, they get to make that decision. We have to work and try to come up with the best possible solution for Canadians, but it is a bill. As I pointed out to his colleague earlier, the same process in Bill C-48 is in Bill C-43. Bill C-43 does not give any more of an indication of how the money is going to be spent. It does not say that this amount will go to Regina for this and this amount will go to Saskatoon for that. It does not do that. That is not what budgets are about. Bill C-43 follows the same process. It is probably something he will understand in time.

The other comment I want to make to the self-pronounced rookie, through you, Mr. Speaker, is on the innuendo that two people were holed up in a hotel room and were writing on napkins. The reality is that a good number of hours were spent working and negotiating a deal. While the Conservatives were wallowing somewhere around Canada, not representing Canadians, a deal was being made to make sure that Canadians, not just corporations, benefited from that budget.

Everybody in this Parliament who has been around for any length of time knows that there is more of a surplus. One would have to be without a mind to not know that there is more of a surplus right now. We know the government has fudged those figures. If there is more money for the government to come up with some other dollars to spend on things, so be it. The reality is we got $4.5 billion or $4.6 billion to go back to Canadians.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

Conservative

Barry Devolin Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a rookie. It is not self-professed. I have been here for less than a year, so I am not a self-professed rookie; I actually am a rookie, for at least two more weeks.

In response, I want to clarify two points. The first point I was making was on the kind of deal making which led to Bill C-48, the notion that people sit in a room and make a deal and before they come out, they not only agree to what they will put on paper, but they agree on what both parties will say, “You say this, and then we'll say that we made an offer” or they did not make an offer, but I guess that is another story.

It is the same as when Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario, came to Ottawa with great fanfare. He spent many hours behind closed doors with the Prime Minister. Quite frankly, I think that is what delayed the Prime Minister from actually getting to Europe in time for the VE Day celebrations in Holland. It is the same thing. The two came out thumping their chests about $5.75 billion. Before Premier McGuinty got back to Toronto, the Liberals here in Ottawa were already backpedalling, saying, “It really is not $5.75 billion. We were already going to spend this. We were already going to spend that”.

That is my first point and the first part of my answer, which is that it is so disingenuous the way that this was presented to the Canadian people. Either it is a lot or it is not a lot. It cannot be both at the same time.

In terms of the way that Bill C-48 was conceived, my point is, it is not whether there is detail around implementation. My point has to do with before the fact, rather than after the fact. There was no due diligence. It is impossible to believe that there was a sufficient amount of due diligence that would require many experts, many bureaucrats and ironically, the Minister of Finance himself to decide whether a $4.6 billion expenditure was prudent and reasonable, could be afforded and was structured properly.

That is what I am referring to. When I say there is no detail, this very thin piece of paper is proof that it was a deal cut by two guys in a hotel room one afternoon.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

7:55 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I make my comments on Bill C-48, I would like to recognize the fact that on a the bill which seems to be so generous and the Liberals as a government seem to be so keen in supporting, we have seen so few stand up and defend this bill and defend the spending that they have done.

As my colleague once said, it is a deal made in a hotel room over a glass of wine, I suspect with a candle. It must have been quite an interesting night with the Prime Minister, the leader of the NDP and Buzz Hargrove. It would be interesting to see who played the server and the servant, the towel boy.

The bill that we are debating is the same as Bill C-43 that we talked about earlier. It depicts a government that continues to spend and spend, with agreement from the New Democratic Party, without a plan. We have seen so much of this happening in so many ways. It is interesting that the people of Canada are being told how much more spending there is and what a great deal this is going to be.

When I sat in on the first budget, I read the book that the Minister of Finance put out. He stressed to Canadians that it was an all encompassing budget, a budget that included all Canadians and served the needs of all Canadians. It could not be changed or cherry-picked to help different areas. He assured Canadians time after time that all of that was included. He assured Canadians that the Liberals had done their due diligence, that they had done their homework. They had presented a budget that was for all Canadians.

Then, in a blink of an eye and in a deal of desperation, the Liberals committed to spend $4.6 billion more. I do not have the facts, but having some history in the province of Manitoba, I suspect that $4.6 billion is larger than some provincial budgets. In a matter of a heartbeat they spent that money.

I have looked through the bill. I have tried to come up with a plan of how they intend to spend this money. Normally there would be an indication as to what areas it would go to and how it would help to improve the lives of Canadians.

I think back to my previous life in business. I can imagine any of us, and I suspect most on this side have experienced it, but I doubt very much that they have on the government side. Imagine going to a bank with a three page document that lays out a rough idea of where the money will be spent, if the bank gives the money. We have to remind taxpayers that they are the bank. The taxpayers are the people who give the government the money for it to spend to help all of Canada.

What the government has done is it has said to Canadians, “We are going to spend a certain amount of money, an amount in the billions, in this area, but we really do not have a plan. You have to trust us. You have to take our word for it that we know how to spend it and we are going to spend it in the best way we possibly can”.

That is not good enough. I do not think that any financial institution, and in this case the Canadian taxpayer, is being served by a government that would do that to the public. I do not understand why the government reduced a job creating measure, the tax cuts for businesses which would create employment, which would create job opportunities for hundreds of thousands more Canadians, and instead turned it into a job killing measure.

It is not me saying that. It is the business community of Canada that is saying it, the people who employ the people who pay the very taxes, the bank, that the government collects to spend. The government has said to the public, “You can forgo your tax decreases. We will forgo the job creation that those tax decreases would create, and instead we are going to spend $4.6 billion of your money with no plan”.

We have certainly seen the government in the past come forward with spending plans without an implementation plan. We only have to look to the firearms registry. It is interesting that we were talking about it today. When I first heard of the firearms registry, it was going to cost Canadian taxpayers $2 million. Where are we today? We are at $1 billion plus, and continuing to spend and still there is no plan to implement it.

There is no plan that tells Canadians how the government will tax their money and how it will spend it. All it has told Canadians is how it will tax them. It has not provided a plan. This is done on a knee-jerk reaction in response to a situation to which the government reacts, but fails to have an implementation plan.

We have talked about Davis Inlet, where a whole community was moved. Unfortunately, because it was a knee-jerk reaction, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent, but the problem was not resolved. Nothing was ever dealt with.

It has been in the news and I do not think it is a secret to anybody, particularly to most Canadians, but we have certainly seen what happens when we start throwing money at an advertising plan without a plan to implement it and no way to check if the money is being spent properly. It leads to corruption and to the charges that we have seen and the charges that will come.

My experience has been in the province of Manitoba and I have seen what New Democratic governments can do when they get their hands on the public purse. They spend without a plan. They tax people. They find ways of increasing service charges and fees and at the end of the day, are we better off? That has been summed up many times by our colleagues. If we look at the way spending increases have happened in the government and where the taxpayers are today, the two do not balance out. We have seen huge increases in spending and very little to increase the quality of life for Canadians.

We on this side of the House believe that Canadians want the best life that is possible. We believe that a government should allow those people to make their spending decisions for themselves. They have a far better chance of being successful and have a far better chance of creating a family environment where everyone in the family is encouraged to succeed and do better. That, in turn, creates a better Canada.

What we have today and what we have seen in the last several weeks is a government that continues to believe that it can spend our money, taxpayers' money, far better than we can. Our party just does not believe that. We believe in a policy and a system where people who are left with an extra dollar in their pocket will choose where they want to spend it, how they want to spend it, and more than likely will choose a way that improves the quality of life for their families.

Another example we have seen recently is the child care program. The government has committed $5 billion. It is not that it is shielding a plan from us. The minister has clearly stated there is no plan. He is not sure if it will be $5 billion, $10 billion or what the cost will be at the end of the day. However, come hell or high water, the Liberals will implement a plan because they feel they know what is best for families across Canada.

A budget is about opportunity. It is about generating a future for Canadians. It is about optimism. With the present budget Bill C-48, we have seen a deal that was made late at night by two people, one of whom was trying to save his political skin. At the start of Bill C-43, the original budget, we had agreed that we would not defeat it. The Prime Minister, in a fearful mood of where things were going in his political career, made a choice to spend $4.6 billion without consulting anybody, even his own finance minister.

I suspect the finance minister is kind of like the Maytag repairman. He is the loneliest guy in town right now because decisions are being made that affect his department and how he manages the department. He is not even at the table to make those decisions.

I will not be supporting Bill C-48. It has been foisted upon Canadians by an irresponsible government and supported by an irresponsible New Democratic Party. I hope that Canadians will see it for what it is. It is an attempt by the Prime Minister to maintain his grip on power, nothing less.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is so political and some time soon we are going to get a chance to vote on this, but I want to ask the hon. member a question for clarification.

We are talking tonight about $4.6 billion. That is really over a two year period, not one year, so if we are talking about a one year budget it is $2.3 billion. That involves about $800 million for affordable housing, $750 for education, $500 million for the environment, and $250 million for foreign aid. That works out to roughly 1% of the $180 billion the government spends every year. I do not think it is irresponsible at all.

We are going to be dealing with some of this spending in the future supply votes next December, next June, and in the December that follows from that. It is not irresponsible. The OECD and the International Monetary Fund are saying that Canada is the only G-7 country that is going to remain in surplus in 2005 and 2006, precisely the periods that this budget is covering.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting how the Liberals always portray their spending habits. What the member forgets to tell Canadians is that in the past 10 years, government spending on programs has gone up 50%. The Liberals neglect to tell people that. It seems like such a small amount when talking about percentages, but if we look at the actual increase in the spending of the government over the past several years, it is atrocious. It is reckless spending. It is spending without a plan.

If it is so important and if it is so great for Canadians, why was it not in the original budget? What caused the epiphany that night in that dimly lit hotel room that would drive the Prime Minister to increase spending by $4.6 billion?

What he also does not mention is that a lot of the spending that is talked about in this $4.6 billion is contingent upon other provinces and other governments spending money as well. That triggers an inflationary cost that is not even talked about, so I do not think that the member or the government can give anybody a lecture on good budgeting and good management of spending. It has been out of control for a long time and today Bill C-48 continues that process.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Charlottetown
P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the member across indicated that he saw firsthand the consequences of an NDP government. I saw firsthand the consequences of a Conservative government that was in power between 1984 and 1993. I have seen the amount of debt that was added. I have seen how the annual deficit was increased by the party of the member opposite in the last year in power, not by the $4.5 billion that we are talking about tonight but by $43 billion.

That government lost control of monetary and fiscal responsibility, interest rates were at 12%, unemployment was at 12%, debt to GDP ratio was at 73%, and the country was bankrupt.

How can we as parliamentarians ensure that the policies and the programs of the government are never ever visited on Canadians again?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect that the member is talking about the free trade agreement that brought wealth and employment to Canadians at a record level. But I ask the member, if he is so committed to his budget and to this added piece of legislation, why is he not standing on his feet to defend it? Why does he just question members on this side? It is because it is indefensible.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague from Brandon—Souris. He is doing a great job and the constituents of his area should be very proud to have him here. I am certainly proud to have him next door to Portage—Lisgar. He is an important member of the House.

There was an editorial piece on Monday that described this as “[The Prime Minister's] folly”, the son of Paul Martin, Sr. is who the editorial was referring to. It said it was a great government garage sale and give away.

I believe that this budget deal is an insult to the organizers of garage sales coast to coast. Those people organize, they plan, they take time, and they look at the system of display. They work hard to price appropriately. They ensure there is an accountability regime. They ensure that they can keep appropriate track of everything at the end of the day. None of that was done in the no-tell motel. I want to ask the member for Brandon—Souris, does he think, as I do, that this budget is just an insult to organized people and prudent fiscal management in this country?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Merv Tweed Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I said, if we were to take Bill C-48 to a bank, the only thing we would hear is the door slamming as the banker asks us to leave because he would not lend us a penny. The government is asking taxpayers to foot a bill with no plan and no organization. It is not a business plan. It is two pieces of paper with a little bit of scribbling on it that adds up to $4.6 billion of taxpayers' hard earned money being spent recklessly by the government.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to recognize that this debate has been labelled a budget debate, but I do not think that is what have. We have a debate on legislation but not budget legislation. The title of the bill is “An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments”. It is not a budget bill at all. It is simply an authorization for the Minister of Finance to spend some money.

Let us compare that to the title of Bill C-43. I notice the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has already recognized the significance of this difference. He recognizes that this is merely a bill to give him carte blanche to spend some money. If the hon. parliamentary secretary would listen, he would understand. Bill C-43 says, “An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 23, 2005”. Notice that in the titles we have a complete differentiation between the legislations.

I would like to make a further comparison. This is a complete copy of Bill C-48. There is one good thing about this. At least it conserved paper. It has exactly one page printed on both sides, but four pages are blank.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

An hon. member

A $4 billion page.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to make Certain Payments
Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

We have a $4 billion budget on one page. Let us compare that with Bill C-43, which is 110 pages. There obviously has to be some major difference between the legislations.

I agree that Bill C-43 probably represents something just under $200 billion. Bill C-48 represents $4.5 billion. Bill C-43 goes into all kinds of details, saying what will happen, where it will happen, how it will happen, who will be responsible for the spending, what the objectives are and how it will be accounted for. We can measure the purposes that have been set, how that money will be spent and then determine whether the results have been achieved. If we compare that with Bill C-48, there is absolutely nothing even close to that in the bill.

Let me read a couple of the sections. It is amazing. The Minister of Finance has the authority, according to Bill C-48, in conjunction with the governor in council, to “develop and implement programs and projects”. It does not say what programs, it does not say what plans and it does not say anything about the projects.

Second, he can “enter into an agreement with the government of a province, a municipality or any other organization or any person”. He does not have to; he may.

Third, he may “make a grant or contribution or any other payment”. Subsection (e) says he can “incorporate a corporation any shares or memberships of which, on incorporation, would be held by, on behalf of or in trust for the Crown”. That means that the Minister of Finance can set up corporations, the Government of Canada will own them and there is absolutely no recourse. He just buys a company.

However, it goes beyond that. The Minister of Finance can “acquire shares or memberships of a corporation that, on acquisition, would be held by, on behalf of or in trust for the Crown”. That means under this bill the minister can now buy a corporation which at the moment is privately owned or owned by an organization and transfer that ownership from an individual to the Government of Canada. He is authorized to do that. He is also authorized to make expenditures for affordable housing, foreign aid and training programs.

I do not think there is anyone in the House who is not aware that education and training programs, education in particular, is the jurisdiction of the provinces. Yet we have the Minister of Finance authorized to get into what is a jurisdiction of the provinces. He may make arrangements with the provinces covered under another section, but he is not obligated to do so. He can unilaterally move into the situation.

My colleagues have indicated so clearly where this agreement took place and how it was actually formulated. I do not know. I was not there. However, I will say one thing for sure, I do not know how they can make Canadians think they are being responsible by writing on a single piece of paper the expenditure of $4.6 billion of our hard earned money without any particular plan or direction and with only vague generalities, except let us spend the money here and there.

Let us go into some of these areas.

The Liberals will do training programs. What kind of training programs? Will they be university training programs? Will they be training programs of a technical nature in a technical institute? Will they be partnership type programs where industry is part of it, or where a university may be a part of it or a technical institute may be a part of it? Will they be apprenticeship programs? Will they be new kinds of programs where innovations, technology and new development take place? None of that is described in any way, shape or form.

Let us go into the housing area. What kind of housing will the government be building? It does not give us any indication. Will it be aboriginal housing? It is supposed to be affordable housing. Will it be affordable housing in Swift Current? What is the criteria of affordable housing? There is no indication as to who will do it, whether it will be done through one of the agencies that exist in Canada now or whether it will be done through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation or any other organization. There is no indication as to how this will be done.

Therefore, how could we hold the government to account? There is no way. It cannot be done, not according to this bill. It is simply a blank cheque deferred into the future some time and it can spend the money.

Guess what. This money is supposed to come out of the surplus. First, we take $2 billion off the top and devote that to debt repayment. Then if there is anything left, we can spend another $4.5 billion. We know the budget that currently exists will have at least that kind of money, so I think the money will be there to do that. However, if it is not there, then the minister is unable to spend this money.

Therefore, it creates a real problem. It creates a problem for us as taxpayers. We are being asked to fork over $4.6 billion and we have no assurances as to how this money will be spent. It hurts us because we are being asked to put that money forward. Then we have a group of people who are expecting something for this money. People who do not have affordable housing now think that it will be provided. People who do not have adequate training now think that will be provided but it may not happen. There are no assurances.

I want to compare this with what happened under Bill C-43. I am only going to deal with two parts and how different Bill C-43 is from Bill C-48.

I will read only one part of it. It has to do with the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. This is one particular provision. It is only one part of 24.

For Canadians who are listening, there are 10 pages essentially of detailed information as to how the Asia Pacific Foundation will help the development of economic development through our relationships with Asia-Pacific countries. That is one area which really becomes very specific.

Then we can go on to another section, which is every bit as significant to us. That is the section that deals with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador additional fiscal equalization offset payments. We also have 10 pages of detail as to how the money will be spent, what it will be spent on, how the organization will be set up and its responsibilities and how it can be held to account if it does not spend the money it was asked to spend.

Those are only two sections of the 24 in Bill C-43 that are specific. There are some things in it that obviously we would have some questions about, but at least we have a direction and at least we have a clear indication of what is going to happen. That is not the case with Bill C-48.

In Bill C-48 there is no accountability. There is no responsibility. It is simply a blank cheque deferred into the future. The Liberals are going to spend $4.5 billion of Canadian money and they are going to spend it the way they want to on any particular day.

That is not the way to run the country. That is not the way to spend $4.5 billion. Canadians should feel insulted by this kind of behaviour.