House of Commons Hansard #118 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

The House resumed from June 16 consideration of Bill C-48, An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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

10 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise to speak right after the prayer for our country. I regularly get phone calls, letters and cards saying that Canadians are praying for this Parliament to have the wisdom to do the right thing.

I am one of the members of the rookie class, elected almost a year ago, but I came here not being a rookie to serving our community. I served as a city councillor for 14 years, almost 15 years now. Over those 14 years in municipal government, we would wring our hands and work hard on the budget, and I will speak on the plans in Bill C-48.

Months were spent in deliberations, trying to be accountable for every dollar in local government but it became increasingly difficult. Over the last 12 years, the dollars became more and more scarce. The finance minister of those days, our now Prime Minister, squeezed and pulled more and more money out of provincial and local governments with the plan to save more money for the federal government.

At the time I was first elected, 50% of the money to fund health care came from the federal government. Now it is only 20%. That is just one small example. It continues to be difficult.

Now that finance minister is the Prime Minister, the difficulties in local government for our citizens, our taxpayers, continues. I supported Bill C-43. That was our budget and consultation had gone into it. It was not a budget with which everybody was particularly happy but we could live with it. We did not want to call an election over it so we supported the bill.

However, along came Bill C-48. Why are we having the debate on Bill C-48? We had a crisis in Parliament because of the corruption and sponsorship scandals. A cloud was hanging over the government. A flurry of offers and deals were being made in an effort to bolster the government. Without the help of the NDP, the government would have fallen. Over the weekend, on a napkin deal, we had Bill C-48.

Bill C-48 does not involve planning. It does not involve consultation. It involves a backroom deal, a napkin deal, that does not represent the wishes of Canadians. Our responsibility is to serve Canadians and to be extremely accountable for every Canadian tax dollar that is sent to Ottawa. Bill C-48 does not represent that. It is a plan that was concocted with no thought or consultation. It is a plan where $4.5 billion will be given to the finance minister to spend at his discretion. How can anybody support that? Canadians do not support that. They want accountability and we do not see that in the government. We do not see that in Bill C-48. When I say government, it is basically a coalition government of the Liberals and NDP.

When I thought about the two parties, I wondered what we would call the Liberal and NDP if we were to mix the two. We would probably end up with the nibble party, a party that nibbles away at Canadians. It is not a party that we and Canadians would be proud of.

Without accountability, Canadians do not know what is going to be done with that money. Do Canadians trust the track record of the last 12 years of the government? They do not.

Part of the $4.5 billion funding in the bill is to go toward the environment. Are we supposed to trust the government to spend it on the environment? Again, it is a promise that over the next many years there will be funding for the environment. For 12 years the government was supposed to do the right thing for the environment but over the last 12 years pollution levels have continued to increase, not decrease.

What about the Kyoto plan? This party said that Kyoto had some merits but that it was not good enough. Canadians are demanding better. Yes, we need to deal with carbon dioxide and the effect on global warming. We acknowledge that but we need better. Kyoto only deals with the carbon dioxide effects. We need to deal with the particulates, the pollution. Every year, hundreds of Canadians are dying prematurely because of the high pollution levels.

Over 12 years, has anything happened there? No. Just a few months ago, even after the 12th hour and pressure from this party to come up with a plan, we finally received a plan. However the plan shows that it will be very difficult to achieve the targets and it is Canadians who will have to help solve that problem. A plan that says the targets will be very difficult to achieve is not a plan. The plan will involve going back to Canadians for more money. With Bill C-48, $4.5 billion of overtaxation will be taken from the Canadian taxpayers.

How do we meet those Kyoto targets dealing with the pollution? We will have to increase energy costs. Canadians are furious over having to pay approximately $1 a litre for gasoline and gas prices that fluctuate daily. However as the government starts implementing the Kyoto plan, the money to buy those carbon credits, the billions of dollars, will be coming from the Canadian taxpayer for energy costs. We are looking at $2 to $3 for a litre of gas with this no-plan.

We still are not dealing with the pollution. Even after 12 years, the government is still allowing raw sewage to be dumped into our oceans. It is unacceptable and Canadians want that stopped. The Liberals have had chances to stop it and they have not. The fact is that the NDP had a chance to clean up the raw sewage being dumped into Victoria Harbour but it did absolutely nothing. Maybe this unholy alliance really is not that uncommon because their values are very similar. They both accept dumping raw sewage into our oceans as an acceptable environmental standard. Canadians demand better.

Canadians demand better for health care. A number of seniors in my riding of Langley have come up to me demanding respect and demanding health care. A number of these people have been waiting for a hip replacement for over four years. That is not acceptable.

What this party is demanding is accountability and Bill C-48 does not provide accountability. Canadians do not support this plan and they do not support the rush to have Bill C-48 go through.

We need to have more consultation. At the committee stage of the bill the Conservative Party offered a number of amendments that would have improved the bill but they were not accepted? Why were they not accepted? Because the Liberals wanted to rush Bill C-48 through with no accountability, just trust. They are asking Canadians to trust them. Canadians do not trust the Liberals and they are telling us not to support Bill C-48.

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

10:15 a.m.

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca
B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr.Speaker, I am sure anyone listening to that recognizes it as political rhetoric that does not relate in any way, shape or form to the facts of the matter at hand.

Bill C-48 represents three significant priorities for Canadians and it demonstrates the fact that we have a minority government and as a minority government, we negotiate.

The member knows full well that in the original budget our government negotiated with his party and other parties to incorporate some of their priorities into the budget. The original budget reflected that. Subsequent to that, other negotiations took place and, indeed, an amendment was made in the form of Bill C-48. What does it represent? It represents housing for the poor. It represents money for post-secondary education. It represents international aid and development.

Does the member oppose money for those who need low cost housing? Does he oppose money for post-secondary education and to relieve the tuition burden on students? We recognize that tuition fees are a problem and we are working with the provinces to solve the problem. Does the member oppose money for international aid and development to help those who are the most underprivileged in the world? If the member is opposed to all those things then he should come out and say that.

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

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, no, I do not oppose any of the things he listed. I support housing for the poor. I support a strong educational program for students. I have five grown children and I know the costs of tuition. It is expensive for them to go to school. I also support international aid. Our party supports all these things but the government has had 12 years to do these things.

The member talked about empty political rhetoric. Twelve years of government is empty political rhetoric when we still have Canadians waiting for over four years for a hip replacement. They are suffering, and it is unconscionable.

The Liberals started a program called compassionate care and gave Canadians hope. However they are still not permitting Canadians to spend the last six weeks with their dying loved ones. It is a program they trumpet but it is empty rhetoric.

I have numerous examples of the Liberals speaking but not acting. If a Conservative government is given a chance, we will meet those needs and we will do it with a plan and a timeline that will represent Canadians in a way that Canadians want to be represented.

Empty rhetoric has to stop and the only way that it will be stopped is if the present government is replaced.

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

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I feel that I must correct a couple of statements. Contrary to what the member across the House said, which is that this bill was ill-thought out and hastily planned, it was just the opposite.

On issues like affordable housing, we in the NDP consulted with groups over a number of years and we clearly reflected what we heard from Canadians. This is an example of how minority governments can work for Canadians by putting together a plan that addresses the needs that Canadians say are absolutely important to them.

What would the member say to those Canadians who have been working diligently over a number of years to talk about issues like affordable housing and putting forward concrete plans that we would like to see implemented with this better balanced budget?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-48 does not have a plan, which is why the Conservative Party is objecting to it. It was a plan that was created over a weekend. This is it. It is one page, oops, on a napkin. Where did that come from? Canadians demand better than one page on a napkin.

All we are saying is that $4.5 billion, without a plan, makes it very clear that Canadians are being overtaxed. Canadians do not trust the government because of its 12 years of mismanagement, and it has to change.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:20 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to address the House on this bill.

Unlike the opposition, I congratulate the New Democrats who listened to voters and got down to business in this Parliament by putting the priorities of Canadians first. In a minority government, government initiatives do not necessarily always get support from Parliament; negotiations are needed.

These negotiations must certainly be done in a reasonable manner that successfully puts the priorities of Canadians first. I think that is what the New Democrats managed to do. If the other opposition parties did not manage to do this, then too bad for them.

The New Democrats recognized that the government should focus on certain priorities it had announced in the previous budget and in the Speech from the Throne. Not enough progress had been made in these priorities to get the NDP's support for Bill C-43. They invited the government to address these matters and that is how we ended up with Bill C-48.

If we look at what we get in Bill C-48, we get some phenomenal advancements of Liberal priorities. We get them a little faster than we had proposed to bring them forward, but I am very glad that we are doing it. I am very glad and I congratulate the New Democrats for bringing them forward and making a minority Parliament work.

If we look at simple questions such as education and the importance of education for our society and culture, we will see what we have done. The opposition always points to what has happened over the last 12 years, all the failures and all the problems that are still out there.

I invite the opposition to look at the successes. We have to look at what we have done over these last dozen years and how we have advanced the priorities of Canadians. I remember when the big question was the brain drain. This was happening when we had young Canadians, professors, engineers, and all sorts of technicians and professionals going overseas to find work. Now they are in Canada; they are coming back. Our graduates are finding work in this country. Jobs are being developed in this country. These professionals are developing our society. They are evolving our society and they are participating in it.

Further, we are getting professional people from all over the world. They are coming to Canada for an opportunity. A big concern now is that we are having to invest in the recognition of foreign credentials. We should do that because it is a very good thing. The government is putting $75 million toward that objective. We have a lot of capacity out there. We have people from other cultures and other countries who want to participate in the miracle of Canada and in developing our society.

This is a big change from the brain drain that we experienced. We have put huge investments into research, such as the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the millennium scholarship, the research chairs, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to name only a few. There is an incredible amount of money being invested in our country. What these investments have meant to our university sector has been phenomenal.

However, there is something lacking, and I have spoken about this in the House on many occasions. It is the ability of Canadians to fund their own education and participate in the affairs of our society. We have done a lot of work. We have raised the bar. We have instituted some programs to help those with problems through education bonds for the less wealthy in this country. We have looked at student loans and how to assist people who are having difficulty paying back their student loans. We have multiple levels of assistance.

There are families in my community that might earn just enough that it makes it difficult for them to access loans and bursaries. There are people who think that the debt burden will be too high and that they should not consider university or certain levels of training. It is appropriate that we make an investment in this area. We must start helping students and institutions. If we advance Bill C-48, it will be a great thing that we are doing for future generations and the current generation.

I will be visiting high schools, as I did this spring. I will be going to two graduations next week if the House rises early enough, and I certainly hope it does. What pains me the most when I talk to these people with huge potential, is that they tell me that they are choosing a particular course of study because of the cost or because of the chance that they will get a job right away and not have a big debt burden.

I do not think there is any bad course of study, whether vocational, technical, university or going directly into the workforce. I have no problem with it, as long as it is the true hope and desire of the students and not impacted by their financial limitations. If Canadians want this country to advance, then we must ensure that we free up all the potential of our current and future generations. It cannot be based on their parental financial status. It must be based on their dreams and aspirations. To invest in students is an incredibly good thing. I am very pleased that we are advancing that Liberal priority and bringing it forward.

Some members opposite will say that tax breaks are the answer to everything. We have given an incredible amount of tax breaks. We have reduced the tax burden on Canadians by $100 million. We have also reduced EI premiums. There are plans for future reductions. That does not do it for everybody. It is important that we bring people up and that we raise the bar for individuals as we bring them forward.

We must look at the question of homelessness in this country and the causes. I do not think tax breaks will do it. Homelessness needs a social investment. It needs a partnership between our urban communities, rural communities, the provinces, the federal government, and the non-governmental organizations. We must look at the capacity that is out there to invest in our economy and for all our citizens to be inclusive, so that the problem of homelessness does not keep growing.

I live in a rural community. We do not see homeless people in my community. They are not visible. People do not make a lot of money as squeegee boys on concession roads, so the ones who have problems for one reason or another, who cannot quite cut it in our economy, end up moving to the urban centres like Montreal, Halifax, Toronto and Vancouver.

If we want to stop that pyramid effect, it is important to look at what programs we have for people who are at risk of being homeless in all communities across this country. We have made very good investments and to make further investments is a very good idea.

Another very good area to be investing in is affordable housing. I have many seniors in my riding who live in old stock houses. These large homes are very difficult to maintain. The services in rural areas are not necessarily the ones we would have in urban centres. Services such as home care, access to doctors, hospitals and even access to a grocery store can be a problem.

If we were to use our imagination and look at the question of affordable housing and homelessness in a global perspective to see how we can assist, I would see great potential. In rural Nova Scotia, one of the things that I always suggest is having enriched housing programs for seniors where they can have independent living, but if services of professionals should be required, they should be available as they are in homes for special care.

If we were to make those types of investments, if the provinces were to use their imagination and we partnered with them, we would free up a lot of old stock housing in our communities for young families to come in and provide very good, secure opportunities for our seniors. If we were to do that, we would have raised the bar quite considerably.

Regarding foreign aid, sometimes people from my community ask, why are we investing billions of dollars in sub-Saharan Africa or in South America or Central America, or China, or anywhere while we have problems at home? I suggest to them that foreign aid is not completely a benevolent act. There is an element of advancing the Canadian cause and within that there is a huge advancement. If we were to assist these countries in reaching their potential, they could become trading partners. If we were to assist these individuals and their families to have a better and positive future, we could reduce the political strife, violence, terrorism, and perhaps all those other problems.

If we were to assist in matters such as health care in those countries, for example, reducing AIDS, and assisting communities torn apart, families torn apart, whole civilizations destroyed or cultures destroyed by a scourge of illnesses similar to that, I think we would being doing some good for the whole world. As Canadians we are lucky to live in the best country in the world, but we are not here alone and we must help to build the whole globe in order to advance it further.

The environment is a very important issue to me. The opposition will say that we have not done enough for the environment. When I came here in 2000, we were told there was no problem related to global warming. Now, we are being told that we may not be doing enough on this issue.

In any event, environmental issues are important. We have implemented infrastructure programs and worked with the cities and the provinces. We have seriously raised the bar in our country and we must continue to do so.

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

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe how many things this member could get wrong in one speech. He talks about the brain drain and says the people who left in the last 10 years are now coming back in droves. I wonder what evidence he has for that. I have not seen a single report that says people are coming back in huge numbers. We are still losing as many to other countries as we are getting back. I think he is wrong on that point.

He said that we have pumped thousands of dollars into research, et cetera. Does he not recognize that governments do not create money? The government cannot just buy royal edicts and give so much more new money. That money comes from somewhere. It comes from the earnings of Canadians, businesses, enterprises, manufacturing and natural resources.

How can he say the government has pumped it in? The government has really taken it from one person and given it to another. It has taken it from the taxpayers and reallocated it. I am not necessarily opposed to that, but to somehow imply that it has pumped all this money in as if it created it from nothing is sort of misleading.

He talks about a $100 billion tax break. I get so sick of this. The amount of $100 billion over the next 10 years is planned for the future if the Liberals still happen to be in government. Canadians know that their take home pay has actually not increased more than about 2% in the last 10 years, one of the lowest increases in the world. The Liberals keep crowing about this $100 billion tax break. We are talking about a one year budget. How much is it per year? Let us be honest with Canadians.

He talked about reducing EI premiums. The government is still taking $5 billion more a year out of it than what it is paying out. It is a huge cash cow for the government. He talks about the environment. I do not think Liberals want the Sydney tar ponds actually solved because then what would the government put in the throne speeches and annual budgets? The government always has plans. I think they are wipeouts.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the government itself has no resources. They are the resources of the Canadian public, the taxpayers and every child whether they are earning income or not. However, it is the responsibility of the government to direct those resources in ways that are for the common good.

We reduced the tax burden of $10 billion over two years in EI premiums alone. We provided a $100 billion tax reduction. We chose the priorities and we determine how our society should advance. We look at areas like day care and early childhood learning and determine the necessity for investment of Canadian resources to assist those children, their families and the future. We see that as being very important. The opposition asks only for tax cuts, saying we should let the rich decide how they want to do it and not provide services to the people less fortunate in this country.

We presented our budget and the opposition saw that it had popular favour and the people of Canada agreed with it. We say we will do that and maybe more. That is how we imagine it.

As far as the brain drain is concerned, I remember not too long ago a former leader and currently a member of the Conservative Party suggesting that he was having problems with the direction of the water over Niagara Falls. I believe that this member has gone over the falls in the same barrel along with all the others.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Clarington—Scugog—Uxbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was interesting to hear the member opposite speak so passionately about some major issues that all Canadians are concerned about. However, I think we should get some clarity around some of the issues.

The first issue is, for example, low income housing. The government and the Liberal Party, along with the NDP, have willingly raised expectations of Canadians about low income housing. There are expectations that this initiative would deliver new homes and rental units for those with low incomes. However, the specific program the money would be directed to is energy efficiency retrofit for low income houses. That means to me that it would be retrofitting existing low income housing, and not building new low income houses.

Can the member tell us how many new low income houses or rental units will be delivered to Canadians through the NDP-Liberal budget?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, this program has a lot of potential. Let us look at what we have been able to achieve so far with our investments in affordable housing. We have done partnerships with the communities, with the provinces and with non-governmental organizations.

We have not decided as the federal government that it was one solution for all; the solution for the problems of Winnipeg would not necessarily be the best solution for the town of Middleton. In Middleton, we had a great opportunity to work with the municipality and the provincial government to create incredibly good affordable seniors housing for that community.

I think there is potential in all sorts of areas across the country and that will retrofit housing, create new housing and, above all, give better housing to low income Canadians.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak in our Parliament. One of the primary functions of Parliament is, and has been since Parliament was invented, to carefully administer and to be a watchdog for the expenditures of the king.

Of course we have the king over on the other side there, wandering around handing out billions of taxpayers' dollars, and with this bill, Bill C-48, once again he would have an unfettered ability to spread that money around. I think that we as Canadians ought to be terribly concerned about this kind of legislation that permits the finance minister and the Prime Minister to do all of these things without accountability.

We have been made so aware in this country in the last four years or thereabouts, with this ad scam thing, that to spend money out of a grand scheme and a big fund, without a detailed plan and without accountability, is just a recipe for disaster.

I would remind all the members here and all those who happen to be listening around the country that ad scam happened because there was actually a hidden fund called the unity fund. It was not even specifically stated; the government did it sort of on the sly. Money was allocated from this so-called unity fund. The Auditor General subsequently reported that there were huge amounts of money, over $100 million, for which she could see no evidence, no paper trail, no justification for spending the money, or even a record of where it had gone.

Now we are in a place where this government is currently under investigation by Judge Gomery as to all these illegal and I would say criminal activities, because taking money that belongs to others is called theft; and that is exactly what this government has done.

Bill C-48, in this little collusion affair between the Liberals and the NDP just in order to buy their votes, sets up exactly the same kind of scenario. I would be very concerned if I were a member of the Liberal Party or the NDP supporting this and saying, “Here is where we want to go”. It is going to hang on their shoulders. Hopefully, when the Canadian people wake up and see what is actually happening here, it will pull them right down to zero.

I did a little calculation and I made an interesting connection, that is, the 19 votes that were bought with this $4.5 billion works out to pretty well as much per vote as the cost of an election, at around a quarter of a billion per vote. The money the Liberals have spent per vote, for those 19 votes, would buy an election. In other words, the money that this deal cost is equal to the cost of 19 federal elections. That is amazing.

Of course we know that the money that is allocated is for what the NDP and the Liberals think are good causes. I would venture to say that I, as a member of Parliament, a Canadian citizen and a representative of the people in my riding as well as one who is looking to the well-being of all Canadians, would favour the programs that they are talking about, but the way this is being done is absolutely untenable.

If these were good, important programs, and they are, then why did the finance minister not put them into his budget speech?

Do members remember way back in the old days that when information from a budget was leaked it would precipitate the resignation of the Minister of Finance? That was not so terribly many years ago.

Now not only do we have the total speech being leaked in advance, but we also have this bizarre scene in which the speech the finance minister gives on budget day has become meaningless. I think this is a tragedy, because as for what he said on that particular day with respect to the government's anticipated plans for taxation, the receipt of money, and the expenditure of that money, all the money that is to be put into the various government programs, that plan turns out to have been nothing but a giant hoax.

There he was saying it, but when we tried to propose amendments, we were told that it could not be done. For the record, we actually tried to influence the budget in advance and frankly were quite singularly rebuffed. When we tried after the fact to propose amendments, we were told very clearly that it could not be done, that the speech the finance minister gave on budget day is what is going to be.

In fact, that is how it has always been.

What did we find two weeks later? The government was facing extinction. It was on the endangered species list. There was all this garbage that we were getting from Gomery. There was all the evidence that showed there was so much criminal activity not only on the front benches of the government but also in the Liberal Party itself, which is the root of the government. As a result, Canadians were saying that they were going to turf those guys. Bring on an election, they were saying, we are going to replace them because they are not worthy to run our country.

What did the Liberals do? First of all, they ignored some votes in the House. We had I believe five votes, two of which were explicit non-confidence votes. I remember, Mr. Speaker--and I am going to do it now because when the Deputy Prime Minister did this it was not shown on camera and Canadians did not know this--that when we had that vote of non-confidence and the Liberals lost that vote of non-confidence, the Deputy Prime Minister made a gesture like this one: “So?” That is exactly what she did: “So?” In other words, a vote in this place does not matter, she was saying, we will just ignore it.

So doctor democratic deficit killer over there, the Prime Minister, does not believe in democracy. The Liberals lost five votes and then, finally, in order to make sure they won one, they had to entice one, and tried to entice more, of our members to cross over. We know they cut a deal with the Minister of Human Resources, because she landed up over there and she is in cabinet. The evidence is there. There was a deal cut. It happened.

Now they have tried to cut a deal with the NDP and the NDP has bought into it. I cannot believe that the NDP would be willing to prop up this corrupt government at such a huge price.

I am simply saying that Bill C-48, the bill we are debating today, is the government's attempt at trying to look, at least formally, as having fulfilled a deal that was made between those two guys, in the hotel in Toronto, with the candles burning and the soft music playing. It was absolutely incredible.

I need to say a little more about this. Right now we are debating this at what is called report stage, and I imagine this is not significant to many people, that is, Bill C-48 was passed here by a slim majority at second reading with the NDP's help and the other shenanigans that the Liberals pulled in order to entice votes. It was passed at second reading. It went to committee and the committee dealt with it.

The committees are supposed to scrutinize legislation. The finance committee did this. It proposed a number of amendments. What do we have today when we are dealing with report stage? All we have to do is look at today's order paper where these amendments are spelled out. I am going to read a very small part of them. Motion No. 1, which we are now debating, is basically this:

That Bill C-48, in Clause 1, be amended by restoring Clause 1--

That is because the committee in its wisdom deleted clause 1 of the bill and reported it back to the House. Where is the democracy? Where is the process of the committee? Why is it not being paid attention to?

Instead, the committee reported the bill back to the House and that arrogant Liberal government simply brought back an amendment saying that anything the committee has done, it will undo. Once again, the Liberals have the purchased votes over there and will probably get it to pass.

It is the same for Motion No. 2:

That Bill C-48, in Clause 2, be amended by restoring Clause 2--

In other words, the committee took it out. The government says it is going to put it back in. It says, “We have these bought votes over here and we will just put it back in”. Democracy just goes poof, out the window.

The Prime Minister ought to hang his head in shame. He ran for the leadership of his party. He ran as a potential prime minister of the country in the last federal election as the person who was going to address the democratic deficit. At every stage he is doing the opposite. Meanwhile, Canadians are suffering because of the lack of a fiscal plan that would put Canada on a solid footing, which is where it ought to be.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning, we must speak the truth. Bill C-48 is before us today because the NDP introduced an amendment to the budget, Bill C-43. The Bloc Québécois voted against Bill C-43 and will be voting against Bill C-48, too, because the Liberal Party and the NDP failed, during their negotiations, to address the fiscal imbalance or make improvements to the EI fund.

The fiscal imbalance is affecting all the other provinces in Canada, and not just Quebec. In order to achieve zero deficit, the former finance minister—the current Prime Minister—slashed federal transfers to the provinces. This led to problems in health care, education and municipal infrastructure programs. These are areas under provincial jurisdiction.

At no time did the NDP consider in Bill C-48 the demands of Quebec. Yet their candidates in every riding in Quebec, even Pierre Ducasse in the riding of Manicouagan, are wondering why the Bloc Québécois voted against it.

I agree with the member when he says that the Liberal Party and the NDP were complicit. First, we have to face facts; the Liberals agreed to the NDP's amendment for fear of having to face an election. But we have to remember that the vote on the budget is also a confidence vote. We were unable to have confidence in this government after the whole sponsorship scandal and the revelations at the Gomery commission. Furthermore, in my opinion, EI should have been a priority in the budget. The unions have condemned this failure.

I want to ask my Conservative colleague the following question. If the Liberals had had a majority, does he believe they would have considered the NDP's amendment and injected an additional $4.5 billion into the budget, that they would have suddenly taken an interest in social housing and allocated additional funds for the environment? If this had been a majority government, does he think that they would have listened to the NDP and allocated additional funds in the budget?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain Payments
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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc colleague has asked a very insightful question.

One thing I want to say about the Bloc members is that they are very consistent in representing the needs of their province. I wish they had a little wider view of the country as a whole, but at least they are true to the mandate which they have defined for themselves.

The question of whether the Liberal Party would have been as amenable to the proposals from the NDP if the Liberals had a majority is a hypothetical one, but I think the answer is self-evident. We have some 11 years of evidence of a majority Liberal government walking roughshod over every one of the rest of us. With very rare exception did the Liberals ever accept even the smallest amendments from the opposition parties. There is no doubt about it that it was electoral fear that caused them to cut this deal. I do not think that there is any problem believing that.

The member also raised the question about having voted for Bill C-43. We recall that when that first came up it was the first time that the minority Liberal government had presented a budget. At second reading of Bill C-43 we did not support it. That fact has escaped a lot of people. We did not support it, but neither did we vote against it because although the Speaker said that the question was on the budget, we supported the government having a chance to prove itself.

This Parliament was very young and Canadians were not ready for an election six months after the last one. Although the Speaker said that the vote was on the budget, every one of us knew the real vote was on whether we should have an election. With one vote both questions had to be answered and they are diametrically opposed. We came up with what we thought was a workable solution. We would not support this budget because of those serious flaws, but at the same time, we knew that the real vote was on whether there should be an election. We decided at that time not to put Canadians through the necessity of having an election. That was the dilemma we faced.

With respect to the EI fund which the member also asked about, I would simply say that the government continues to take huge amounts of money in excess of the actual actuarial needs of that fund. I think that is a crime.

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

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join in the debate on Bill C-48. I realize we are getting close to question period, so I will try to make my remarks brief and make the most of this opportunity.

I honestly believe that people watching today, whether they are present physically or watching on CPAC, are in for a bit of a treat. Not only has the debate been of a very civil tone today--and it has not always been civil in recent days; last night was something that no one should be proud of--but they are also having an opportunity to watch a minority Parliament work as it should.

This is an interesting lesson in history. It is an interesting observation. What we see in Bill C-48 is the manifestation of the cooperation that has typified this minority Parliament. The NDP has used its political leverage, as a good opposition party will, to advance our agenda with the ruling governing party. It is almost a civics lesson in how it is supposed to happen. I have never been more proud to be a New Democrat. In the eight years that I have been here, the last six months have been the most gratifying and satisfying in my short political career.

I am here today with my colleague from Ottawa Centre who has lived through the experience of minority Parliaments before, with great success I might add. It gives me an enormous sense of pleasure and pride to stand today with my colleague from Ottawa Centre present in the House to relive that experience. I honestly believe, without any partisan politics involved, that minority Parliaments are good for Canadians. History and the empirical evidence bear that out. We are experiencing that again today with Bill C-48.

My colleague from Edmonton--Sherwood Park made a very good speech. He started it with an interesting observation, as he often does, about the role of an opposition party in a parliamentary democracy. I think he would agree there is another role for an opposition party in a minority Parliament, and that is to advance the agenda of that opposition party to the best of its advantage within the rules. It is a good thing for Canadians that there is more diversity in the intellectual dealings of this House, in that the ruling party, by the nature of a minority Parliament, has to do more consultation and more cooperation. Consultation in the strictest sense of the word means accommodation of what the government members have heard as well. There cannot be consultation without accommodation of the points being heard.

We are proud to stand here today and say that the ruling party, the Liberal Party, has accommodated the legitimate concerns of the New Democratic Party. That has manifested itself in Bill C-48, and I am delighted to be able to say that. I say it with great pride and modesty as well. Canadians have made their views known. The whole neo-conservative agenda, well, I will not even go into that. I do not want to be partisan today.

In the few moments that I have, I rise simply to celebrate the fact that we have managed to turn the political agenda back to the interests of ordinary Canadians, all within the context of a balanced budget. I want to emphasize that again and again, because last night, laying in my bed watching CPAC and watching some of the speeches by the Conservatives, I felt like putting on my suit and tie, coming down here and challenging some of the misinformation. They would have people believe that our agenda of adding some social spending to this year's budget in some way is going to break the bank. Everything is within the context of a balanced budget and that is in fact the historical record of most NDP governments.

I do not have to remind Canadians that the most wasteful, spendthrift government in Canadian history was the most recent Conservative government. That is when the national debt ballooned to $500 billion.