House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from March 20, consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Rivière-du-Nord.

In my speech, I will be focussing on how the federal government continues to exercise its spending power in Quebec's jurisdictions. As far as the Conservative government is concerned, the fiscal imbalance has been resolved. As far as the Bloc Québécois is concerned, this is not so. The Minister of Finance, in his budget, definitively resolves just one aspect of the fiscal imbalance, and that is the equalization formula. For the rest, including transfers for health and post-secondary education, nothing has changed much in this budget. In fact, there may even be slightly less money for health in 2006-07 than in 2005-06.

Let us not forget that there is nothing—absolutely nothing—in this budget on asymmetrical federalism or the end of federal spending power. Let us not forget that the solution for Quebec is to transfer tax points or GST points.

Is Quebec the spoiled child of the federation? To that question, even if the government argues that Quebec's share of federal transfers will be much larger than its population, it is certain that these transfers merely help Quebec catch up and do not constitute a favour. When we look at the evolution of federal transfers, we see that from 1993-94 to 2007-08 transfers have increased by 55% in Quebec, and 66% in Canada without Quebec, while federal revenues have increased by 91%. Quebec, therefore, is not the spoiled child of the Canadian federation.

Let us consider the so-called federal spending power. Like the Séguin commission, the Bloc Québécois is asking that Ottawa stop spending in non federal jurisdictions. Accordingly, the Bloc Québécois continually asks, and will continue to ask, for Quebec to have a real right to withdraw with full financial compensation from all federal programs, or parts of programs, that encroach on its jurisdictions.

The 2007 budget perpetuates the so-called federal spending power simply by providing a framework for it. It proposes that new cost-sharing programs, in areas of provincial jurisdiction, be agreed to by a majority of the provinces. This is totally unacceptable to us. In other words, the Conservative government has announced absolutely nothing that makes it possible to set limits on federal spending power, much less put an end to it.

What has struck me since I was elected in this House in 2004 is the great number of bills that come to us week after week and to which we must constantly take exception because they intrude on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction. It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the fact remains that we must constantly fight to ensure respect for the Canadian Constitution. In passing, I would remind this House that Quebec has still not signed this Canadian Constitution.

As critic for intergovernmental affairs, I wonder, among other things, about the Canadian securities commission that is mentioned in this budget. In the 2007 budget plan, on page 179, the Minister of Finance wrote:

A move to proportionate, more principles-based regulation will be a significant undertaking that would be difficult to achieve under the current, fragmented structure of securities regulation. A common securities regulator will create the opportunity to deliver this new approach. It will help improve investor protection, cut red tape, reduce costs for market participants and give an equal voice to all participating jurisdictions. The plan also proposes to modernize the legal framework for financial transactions.

Must we remind the House that Quebec's securities commission is working just fine? The OECD has given it a favourable recommendation, saying that Quebec's securities commission worked in an exemplary fashion. We must remind the House that Quebec and the provinces are responsible for regulating the securities market and that Ottawa has nothing to do with this.

Why does this show up in the minister's budget?

The federal government's desire to create a Canadian securities commission is beginning to look like an obsession. Jean Chrétien's Liberals talked about it regularly. The current Minister of Finance was after it last year and is after it again this year. The federal government has never succeeded in making Quebec withdraw from the finance sector only because this issue is none of its business and it has no power to intervene. The regulation of stocks and bonds falls exclusively within provincial jurisdiction.

In Quebec, the legislative framework for the securities sector is based on the Civil Code, not on the common law. Provincial securities commissions are involved in ongoing discussions to harmonize many of their practices and to ensure that businesses are registered with provincial exchanges. One might wonder why the government so desperately wants a Canadian securities commission when the Americans, among others, have a securities commission in each state. It works very well. Let us use that model as our inspiration. To my knowledge, the United States is known for intervening in all financial sectors.

Quebec wants nothing to do with the minister's initiative. This is not a divisive issue for the parties in Quebec. On June 4, 1996, the National Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution that read as follows:

That the National Assembly clearly affirm Québec's wish to continue, with the other provinces, the harmonization process with regard to securities, which is in conformity with the objective of preserving the Canadian economic space, and that it request that the Federal Government abandon its plan to create a National Securities Committee, which constitutes interference in a provincial area of jurisdiction.

It could not be any clearer than that. I think it is very important to clarify things and abandon the ridiculous notion of a Canadian securities commission.

Now, I would like to talk about a few glaring omissions in this budget. We, the members of the Bloc Québécois, will pay particular attention to these issues.

Let us begin with regional development. The budget does not include any measures for regional development. The budget respects the Conservative philosophy, whereby if we reduce corporate taxes, then economic issues will disappear, thanks to the market's invisible hand. Market forces are cruel. With globalization, we can see, among other consequences, that our businesses are experiencing serious economic problems, particularly in the regions of Quebec. My riding of Trois-Rivières has had some major difficulties, whether we are talking about the furniture, textile or forest industry. Thousands of jobs were lost. Unfortunately, this budget does not include measures that would help regional development, that would help our businesses to overcome the problems they have in recruiting qualified people, dealing with high transportation costs and, particularly following the gas price increase, controlling the cost of their products.

Before concluding, I want to say a word about infrastructures. The Bloc Québécois recognizes that the government is making significant investments in infrastructures. The Bloc Québécois is generally pleased with these efforts. However, even though these investments are fairly predictable, the Bloc would have liked to see guarantees that funding for these programs will be uninterrupted, particularly as regards the gas tax fund, because this is not always the case. That is a request made by the Union des municipalités du Québec.

We believe that the government should be careful not to infringe on the exclusive jurisdictions of the Quebec government and of the provinces.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois will support this budget, even though it only partially solves the fiscal imbalance issue, because the taxes paid by Quebeckers must be returned to the Quebec government, so that it can meet its responsibilities.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for her very interesting speech.

I will be following a certain chronological order. It is important to remind this House that neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals acknowledged the existence of the fiscal imbalance. In fact, they have yet to acknowledge it. It does not exist for them.

As a result of the work of the Parti Québécois since 1998—April 17, 1998 to be exact—the fiscal imbalance was discovered. The Séguin commission did indeed identify that there was a fiscal imbalance in Quebec.

Since then, the Bloc Québécois has taken on the challenge, in this House, of defending the existence of the fiscal imbalance, because it was absolutely necessary for the government to be aware of it and to understand that it existed in Quebec. At that time we were dealing with a Liberal government; now we have a Conservative government.

Having said that, after the election of the Conservative government, there was recognition finally that the fiscal imbalance existed in Quebec and solutions were put forward.

There are some good things in this budget and, as we have said, we will vote for it. We will not turn down money for Quebec, which really needs it. I will provide some glaring examples.

In the health field alone our needs are great. Our hospitals are overflowing and emergency departments cannot cope. How many Quebeckers cannot find a family doctor?

There is a danger: the creation of a two tier health care system. We do not want that in Quebec or in Canada. We are fighting as hard as we can to avoid that. What is needed is for our tax money, which is sent to Ottawa, to be returned to us.

Health is an area that is wholly and entirely under the jurisdiction of Quebec and the provinces. The administrative decisions are therefore up to us. The needs are truly great.

My son works at the hospital in Saint-Jérôme; this is a regional hospital serving a regional population. I can say that there is no shortage of work there. But there are shortages in many other areas, including hospital staff, nurses, doctors and emergency department space. As I said, there is a shortage of family physicians.

My riding is the one that has undergone the highest population growth. I have just received this information from my riding office. In barely five years the riding's population has increased by some 11,000 residents. The Laurentians is the region with the highest growth in Quebec.

And the health needs follow. This means that we need more pediatricians. Young families often come and settle in our region. That is why we need the money.

It would be great, of course, to get something back in certain areas, but it should also be done on a permanent basis. It is not right to keep playing this kind of give and take game in areas as important as heath and education. The fact is that there is not much in here for post-secondary education.

I would have a great deal to say on the matter. It is very important that measures be put in place to really help students. I can tell the hon. members about my daughter, who is currently a student. I have calculated how much my daughter's education will cost from the CEGEP to the master's degree and, without her mother's help, she would rack up a major debt.

There is talk about a scholarship program but we are not sure what it will look like, whereas we already have our own bursary system in place. You may not have been here at the time, Mr. Speaker, but you probably remember that we doggedly opposed the millennium scholarships because the program, in our opinion, overlapped one we already had in Quebec.

Send Quebec the money, but make it something permanent. We will manage it based on our own needs, those of our students, to ensure that they get a good education and a higher education.

I know hundreds of young university students who must drop out of school because they do not have the means to pay. Or else the students go into debt and spend 10 years after graduation paying off their debts. This is unacceptable. A student will not necessarily find a well-paid job right after graduating from university. First they have to prove themselves. All of this must be taken into consideration. So, I think we must get our priorities right in the areas of health and education.

I would also like to talk about what is missing from this budget. It is good that we were given a little something to spend. Hopefully this will be done under a Parti Québécois government, which will likely be elected next Monday, and which has very good policies for Quebec.

I want to talk about what was left out. For a long time, we have been asking for an independent employment insurance fund. There are enormous surpluses in this fund. We could reinvest in employment, reduce the number of hours required and increase income. Instead of being 50%, we could increase the income to 55% or 60%, depending on the surpluses generated by the employment insurance fund. These surpluses should be reinvested in the employment insurance fund to serve the unemployed, or be reinvested in training programs. This could be done in different ways. But this is not what is going on now. Surpluses from the employment insurance fund are spent wherever. The unemployed do not benefit like they should. It is too bad this was not in the budget.

There is also the whole matter of the textile, furniture and aerospace industries. In Quebec, there have been an incredible number of closures. These companies will never reopen, some are closed for good. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs. We have to take care of these people. Often, entire villages shut down because it was the companies that were sustaining them. When a company closes its doors, workers are left with nothing. They are the forgotten ones. That is why we asked for a program for the older workers, like POWA—which existed under the Liberal government—to help older workers take their retirement a little sooner. If a company closed, they could have some money to carry them through until their retirement. Unfortunately, there is nothing for our older workers. It is truly a shame.

There is also the social housing issue. Social housing is something I have already defended here in this House. I have been here for 13 years and I have been a critic for a number of files. In Quebec, there is a social housing crisis. It is important to recognize it in a region such as my riding with a population growth as a great as I mentioned. In five years, receiving 12,000 new people in a single riding is quite significant. This also means more housing. Not all of these people require social housing, of course, but the need is there. In Saint-Jérôme, the regional capital of my riding, the need is greatest. Low-income earners need social housing. Often it is single women and single older women who need this type of housing.

In closing, we will vote in favour of the budget, even though there is still a lot of work to be done. The voters can count on the Bloc. We will never stop fighting for what is rightfully ours, rightfully Quebec's. We are not beggars and we know full well that the money is here and that it comes from our taxes. We will get back what is rightfully ours in order to live better, in order to live well in Quebec, and to live in health and happiness in our Quebec.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by my colleague from the Bloc Québécois.

She said that some people were overlooked. Perhaps she should have read the budget properly before venturing to say such things.

In fact, for post-secondary education alone, more than $245 million will be invested in Quebec. Furthermore, although she said that Quebeckers who have completed their university studies were possibly the most heavily in debt, I would remind the House that Quebec has the lowest tuition fees in all of Canada, even North America. Thus, the members opposite appear prone to exaggeration.

There is something else I would like to point out. With respect to labour market training, $117 million will also be invested in Quebec alone, for the training of workers.

No one is saying that we are going to force our workers who are 55 and older to retire. We are saying that we will help them find new jobs, so they can live with dignity.

Also, at what age would the Bloc Québécois like to make our workers retire?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I used extremely polite vocabulary in my speech. I do not like being accused of exaggeration. Our party does not exaggerate, quite the contrary. Maybe those accusations can be attributed to the lack of experience of the member opposite. We can excuse him for his mistake.

I am not talking about forcing people to retire because of their age. When a 50 year old worker loses her job because the company she was working for closes its doors, and the only work experience she had was with that company, and she is too young to collect pension benefits, we must help her. That is the kind of situation I am talking about.

I talked about post-secondary studies. It is true that students in Quebec might have less debt than students in other provinces, but they have debt nonetheless, and they must pay back their debt. Thus, there is no doubt that we must reinvest in and help our young people, so they can continue to study.

It is not enough simply to toss $245 million at us. This is not enough money. Yes, we will take it and, yes, we are happy to have it, but it is not enough. It must also be permanent. It cannot be just one part, one time, one year. It cannot be money given simply to placate Quebec and to clear the conscience of the Conservatives, who can now say that they did a good job, because they gave money to Quebec. I am sorry, but these arrangements must be permanent.

Ottawa is raking in astronomical surpluses. We know this, because we can add them up. The Bloc Québécois has always been the best at doing so. Therefore, this money must come back to us, and be allocated to the files in which we would most like to invest. This does not mean that other provinces will want to invest in the same areas.

Thus, let us decentralize things, as the Prime Minister likes to say. If he wants to decentralize, he has an opportunity to do so. I wish he would decentralize and allow us to invest, with our own means, where it is needed most, where our citizens have the greatest needs. In Quebec, the areas that need the greatest investment are health, education and our workers. We would like to help all these people, but it is up to us to decide and not up to the federal government.

We want to take control of our own affairs, we want to make our own decisions. That is what it means to be independent. And one day we will be a country, we will be sovereign, and when that day comes, we will have everything we need to function.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer my colleague from the Bloc. Her party was supposed to be here for only one or two terms. No wonder, then, they have become such experienced members of Parliament.

How much longer does the hon. member think that the House will be able to benefit from her experience?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, as long as the population from Rivière-du-Nord will see fit. I have been democratically elected. Our fellow citizens can count on our presence and on our experience to defend Quebec's interests here in Ottawa until Quebec becomes sovereign.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today and offer a few comments on the recent budget speech. I am also pleased to be sharing my time with my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre.

This is the second budget that we have seen from the Conservative minority government. The first example of Conservative management of the public purse raised the tax rate in the lowest tax level for the poorest members in our communities. This most recent Conservative budget distinguishes the present finance minister as the $236 billion man, Canada's biggest spending finance minister ever.

I have been in the House long enough to recall times when Canada's coffers were not so plentiful and I have to tell the House that this budget makes me nervous. Governing is more than writing cheques. Canadians expect leadership and vision. They want a strategy for long term national growth. They want investments for the prosperity of Canadians and a commitment to fairness to each and every citizen.

What we have in the budget that was just tabled by the government is a budget that ignores the plight of the poor, the less fortunate and the homeless. At the very least, the barest of minimums, the largest spending budget in Canadian history should offer something for everyone. This budget does not.

When I return to my home in Kitchener Centre this weekend, I expect to be asked what is in the budget for ordinary people. It is a natural response to a federal budget. Canadians contribute. They expect and they deserve a return on their tax dollars.

I will have to tell the single mother that she will have to wait for child care spaces for her two young children as the current government does not look at children, our future, as a priority. Of course, she will be grateful for the $310 per child in tax relief, but it is not enough for child care even if she can find spaces for her two children.

Waterloo region is home to multiple post-secondary institutions and they are outstanding institutions. We have Conestoga College, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University.

I am incredibly disappointed that the Conservative government did not announce an extension of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. This foundation delivers $350 million in needs-based grants on an annual basis. It is another example of how lower incomes are simply ignored as a group by the government. The best and brightest are not always the richest, and as a result, students are carrying an enormous debt burden.

We all want to feel safe in our home and on our community streets. When I think about building a safer Canada, I think about crime prevention and I think about the important work of the council.

It is my experience that many members of the government feel strongly about crime. They feel strongly about punishment. But they only have a cursory regard for crime prevention.

There is no doubt that it is important to invest in the anti-drug strategy that has been announced in the budget and in efforts to combat sexual exploitation of children as well as combating human trafficking.

Recently, I reviewed research conducted by the Community Safety and Crime Prevention Council in Waterloo region, and it calls for a reduction in violence by enhancing human and social development.

The tools to reduce violence are extensive and sensible. It is an increase in early childhood education with a focus on the underserviced and low income areas. Studies show that centre-based child care prepares children for school and a successful school experience will lead to fewer dropouts. By providing supplementary nutrition and supportive counselling to low income pregnant women, we contribute to better life outcomes. Low birth weight is a risk factor for violence.

Crime prevention is key to a strong, safer, and better community. Child care is a part of that solution. Support for women is part of that solution. Support for lower income people is also part of that solution.

The fact is that the budget makes no mention of poverty. It does nothing to address homelessness. This is a glaring omission. As a matter of fact I find it astonishing.

We should think about how we Canadians spend our paycheques. Our first priorities are where the needs are the greatest. The necessities are food and shelter, but when the Conservative finance minister sets out to spend more money than any other finance minister has spent before him, he ignores these needs. He does not even mention necessities such as food and shelter. He says he wants to help those who are huddled around the kitchen table, but he completely neglects Canadians who are huddled around the heating grate or the alley dumpster behind the local restaurant.

There is no doubt in my mind, when prosperity enables us to spend, we should spend it where the need is the greatest. While those on that side of the House may disagree with me, I believe that there is much agreement about those huddled around Kitchener Centre kitchen tables and in constituencies right across this country that we need to reinvest in those who have the greatest need.

Despite the tremendous resources the government has at its disposal, the budget does little for the average working family. There is nothing to position Canada for the 21st century. On this side of the House we cannot stand up for such a narrow, ineffective budget, particularly at a time when Canada faces enormous challenges on competitiveness, the environment and social justice.

In Ontario, we shall have to wait till 2014 for fairness on federal health transfers. That is simply too long for patients and others who are waiting for surgery, and it breaks a Conservative campaign promise to address wait times immediately.

Further, there is still no long term predictable funding mechanism to address public transit, which leads to more ad hoc projects as opposed to an integrated, comprehensive plan to reduce gridlock. This is of particular concern in my community where a partnership with the region's light rail transit proposal would connect the region and present extensive economic growth opportunities. The budget is silent on those kinds of projects.

It is through fiscal prudence and responsible spending of Liberal governments that Canada eliminated a deficit and went on to build one of the strongest economies in the world. I am astonished at the level of spending in the Conservative budget and I am completely disappointed by the haphazard manner in which this money has been disbursed.

Preparing a budget, whether it is for a household or a nation, is a delicate balancing act of many competing priorities. As a member of the Liberal Party, I have consistently advocated for support for Canadian families while promoting fiscal responsibility in building a strong economic foundation for the future. I find the budget to be irresponsible, shortsighted and lacking vision, and because of these reasons I cannot support it in the House of Commons.

Canadians deserve better.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to what the member opposite was saying and I would like to make a suggestion. Perhaps she would be able to support the budget if she actually read it.

A number of the comments she made regarding what is not in the budget are simply factually incorrect. A number of the things she has mentioned, such as the child care issue, homelessness, education, all of those things that she mentioned, are actually in the budget.

This is a budget that will have a positive impact on 90% of Canadians. It is very bothersome to listen to someone talk about something that actually is not in the budget. We have all of these things covered beautifully and the problems she is raising simply are not in the budget.

I would be very interested to hear how the member opposite, who has just finished speaking, would like to answer the fact that there is money in there for homelessness. There is money in there for child care. There is money in there for all of the things for which she stated there is no money in there.

Again, I go back to what I said originally. Perhaps she should take the time to read the budget and then she would recognize that those things are covered.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the helpful manner with which the government member has asked me that question, but I want to assure her that I have read the budget. What is alarming about this budget is that it divides community against community. It divides high income Canadians against low income earners.

She is quite right. There is some money. I have read the budget. There is some money there for master's and Ph.D. students.

However, there is no financial relief for undergrad students. Members can correct me if I am wrong, but generally speaking one has to get a B.A. or a B.Sc. before one goes on to a master's and a Ph. D., so indeed, this is providing no student relief for those early years and that fundamental basis.

There is no money there for literacy, a building block whereby we start on innumeracy and we start to be able to be functioning members of society.

This budget is stunning in what it is lacking and some of the moneys that are put in are so far out; I will return to the health care money for Ontario: 2014. I ask the member, how is that reasonable when this is a 2007 budget?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my Liberal colleague's speech. Of course there are many shortcomings in the budget and I agree totally with her. We will vote in favour of the budget because it resolves the fiscal imbalance—in part. I say “in part” because a lot remains to be done before that problem has been completely solved. By resolving one part of the fiscal imbalance, we also solve part of the problems in the health, education and social sectors. That is something the Quebec National Assembly can say to Quebeckers when accepting the money.

However, there are shortcomings in the budget: EI has not been mentioned and has not been improved. Workers have been asking for years that that system be enriched and they have been asking the same for the measures for older workers which have not been improved despite the numerous plant closures.

I would like to hear the member on that. Could she explain to me why the Liberals did not improve EI when they were in power?

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, after we had paid down an inherited $42 billion deficit and paid down the debt so we could start reinvesting in the Canadian economy and priorities of Canadians, under our watch we indeed did reduce the EI contribution on behalf of both the worker and the employer, every consecutive year. We also invested in training for older workers and issues that dealt with the changes in the manufacturing bases.

Another thing that is lacking in this budget is vision. There is no plan for the changes and the challenges that face the manufacturing structure. That sector is hugely impacted in my riding of Kitchener Centre and right across this country.

Financial statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too rise to speak about budget 2007, a document with so much potential but with possibilities squandered.

On Monday an opportunity afforded itself to the minority Conservative government. Awash in cash thanks to 13 years of sound fiscal management by the previous Liberal government, the Conservatives had available to them many options. They could have championed accessibility to post-secondary education, research and development, cities, and regional economic development. They could have said that their legacy would be that of eliminating the prosperity gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.

Indeed, they had many options available to them. All of them could have strengthened Canada and made it a more vibrant Canada, increased its productivity and increased its competitiveness, and made it a better Canada for my children and most particularly for my grandchildren. Such an opportunity, I regret to say, was wasted. There was no grand vision, no plan to bolster our economy and no plan for the future.

More money was spent than ever before but one might ask about a sprinkling here, a dash there, a pinch for this, a pittance for that, attempting to appeal to all Conservative supporters, fooling no one and failing everyone. We must look through the smoke and mirrors to see the truth.

Aboriginal Canadians have been abandoned, ignored, insulted and outraged. Students are told to fend for themselves, that they do not fit the government's target demographic. Single people and single senior women have been told, “Our strategists say we don't need you, so we ignore you, good luck, don't call”.

To working parents it said, “One of you should be at home with the kids, and that's where we think you are best off, but our strategists tell us that some of you feel that you have to work”. There is a little money for child care, said the government to working parents, and it knows it is far too little and far too late but it is hoping that working parents will not notice. We must look through the smoke and mirrors and look at the truth.

In my province of Manitoba, where the first early learning and child care agreement was signed in April of 2005, the government has shortchanged the people of that province significantly. The previous government promised $174 million over five years. That was $34.88 million per year. We all know what happened when the Conservative government took over. Child care came through the mail. Day care spaces were not created. Working parents, those who most needed day care spaces, could not find them.

One wasted year later, the Conservative minority government finally accepted its failure on this front and pledged some money for child care, except that while the government was too busy applauding itself Manitobans saw its child care plan for what it was: 75% less than what was signed and agreed to in April of 2005. It is a sprinkling, not enough to solve the problems, but Manitobans might not notice, the Prime Minister hopes. I say, do not underestimate Manitobans, Mr. Prime Minister, they see through the smoke and mirrors and they see the truth.

On to Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba's beloved Lake Winnipeg. For generations of Manitobans, it is the spot of their vacations and family gatherings and memories. For many people it is a source of livelihood and economic development. A previous government commitment was made to see it restored with $120 million over 10 years. The lake would be cleaned and intensive research would be conducted. It would be a viable destination for Manitobans for generations to come.

When it became obvious that the government was going to be slow to react, I introduced a private member's bill to ensure that this cleanup occurred. Now, a wasted year later, the government responds, but in typical fashion its actions are far too little, with $7 million over two years, which is not enough to solve the problems. Perhaps Manitobans will not notice that, the Prime Minister hopes. Again I say, do not underestimate Manitobans, Mr. Prime Minister. They do see through smoke and mirrors.

For the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, a showpiece for the city of Winnipeg, the legacy of the late Israel Asper, the previous Liberal government committed $100 million. There was not a word in this budget despite a commitment from the Prime Minister during the last election campaign.

Today's Winnipeg Free Press said the following about the deafening silence from the government on the museum:

It's time for the federal government to put its cards on the table.

If nothing else, Mr. Harper should tell Ms. Asper privately to continue her efforts--