House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I would also like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, President of the Senate of the Republic of Chile and His Excellency Patricio Walker Prieto, President of the Chamber of Deputies of the Republic of Chile.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Comments by Member for Timmins—James Bay
Points of Order
Oral Questions

March 27th, 2007 / 3 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the other day I had an exchange with the Indian affairs minister on whether the dike in Kashechewan was in danger of collapse and whether life was at risk. I was referring to a capital budget report, and I would like to quote from it to set the context, in which it referred to:

—a possibility of loss of life and decrease the potential for extensive property damages of the dike failure during a flood. There is a probability that the dike will collapse during a major flood...

I had asked the minister about this. He said that the community was satisfied with steps taken on the dike. I do not believe that is the case. However, I did use an intemperate, off-the-cuff remark. I used it three times. I fully admit it. I am very passionate about these issues. However, I do have immense respect for the House and the importance of discourse in the House.

Therefore, I wish to apologize to the House for my intemperate use of the street vernacular. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker.

Comments by Member for Timmins—James Bay
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I believe this concludes that matter.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to address a point of order that was raised on March 21 by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons in regard to remarks made by me during debate on a concurrence motion on Friday, March 2, 19 days earlier.

I do not agree that anything in my speech on March 2 should be considered out of order or unparliamentary for the following three reasons, and I will be brief.

It is true that, on March 2, I said that some of us in western Canada were calling the Minister of Agriculture Il Duce, which is a nickname given to the Italian fascist leader Mussolini. We do call him Il Duce, but it is important to note that I did not call the minister a fascist. I implied he was acting like a fascist when he denied farmers the right to vote on marketing wheat through the Canadian Wheat Board, even though that right is guaranteed by statute.

Fascism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a right-wing authoritarian form of government. Even though it is a form of government that modern Democrats do not endorse or support, it is not in and of itself an insult.

My implying the minister was acting like a fascist is no different than his fellow Conservative colleagues saying that I often act and speak like a socialist, which is an accusation that they make freely and often and one that I do not necessarily object to or deny.

I do not contest that the word “fascist” is listed in Beauchesne's as having been found to be unparliamentary in past rulings by the Speaker, but I ask you to consider that Beauchesne's concedes it is impossible to lay down, in any specific rules, in regard to what specific words or expressions are or are not contrary to order. Much depends on the context, including the historical context of certain emotionally charged words.

I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to consider section 486, on page 143, of Beauchesne's sixth, edition which says:

An expression which is deemed to be unparliamentary today does not necessarily have to be deemed unparliamentary next week.

In other words, what is considered acceptable language may change over time.

For instance, accusing a fellow MP of acting like a right-wing authoritarian may have been a lot more offensive when Canada was at war with fascist governments. At that time, it would have been like accusing an MP of being like the enemy, perhaps questioning their patriotism. I meant no such thing about the Minister of Agriculture.

Conversely, it would have been less offensive in the early 1930s before World War II when there were legitimate, although we would argue misguided, fascist parties in Great Britain, Canada and the United States. My point is that some words that were volatile and emotionally charged in a certain historical context are less so today and should no longer be considered unparliamentary.

In another example, calling a fellow MP a separatist was ruled out of order as being unparliamentary in 1964. In those days, calling a fellow MP a separatist would have been comparable to accusing him of treason. Now, for better or for worse, we have separatists all over the place in the Canadian Parliament and calling a member of the Bloc Québécois a separatist is only stating a fact.

Many other terms and expressions probably should be struck from the list of what is considered unparliamentary. In 1875 it was ruled unparliamentary to call someone a political bully. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition call the current Prime Minister a bully frequently.

In 1886 it was ruled out of order to suggest that an hon. member had come into this world by accident. In 1919 we were prohibited from suggesting a fellow member was seeking cheap notoriety. I myself have been accused of that many times. In 1881 a member was asked to withdraw his remarks when he suggested that a colleague was “inspired by forty-rod whisky”.

The list of what is acceptable should clearly be updated. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling will not be guided by the fact that the words “fascist” and “Mussolini” have at one time been found to be unparliamentary in the past.

In fact, Marleau and Montpetit seem to agree that precedents should not be the only consideration when the book states that:

The codification of unparliamentary language has proven impractical as it is the context in which words or phrases are used that the Chair must consider when deciding whether or not they should be withdrawn.

The second point I would make, Mr. Speaker, is that in determining whether my remarks made on March 2 should be withdrawn, I ask you to consider the matter of timeliness, as found in section 485 of Beauchesne's on pages 142 and 143.

Section 485 states, “Unparliamentary words may be brought to the attention of the House...by any Member”, but it goes on to say that “the proper time to raise such a point of order is when the words are used and not afterwards”.

Marleau and Montpetit speaks to the same matter on page 526, where it states:

Since the Speaker must rule on the basis of the context in which the language was used, points of order raised in regard to questionable language must be raised as soon as possible after the irregularity has occurred.

No one objected to my remarks at the time I made them or later on the day that I made them. The complaint was made 19 days later, on March 21, and I believe the matter should be dismissed on the basis of timeliness, if nothing else, or the Speaker may be buried in a landslide of historic grievances.

The third point I would make is that in the same section of Marleau and Montpetit it states:

In dealing with unparliamentary language, the Speaker takes into account...most importantly, whether or not the remarks created disorder in the Chamber.

I think all who were present in the House on March 2 would agree that my remarks did not create disorder in the House that day. They did not cause any disruption in the House. There was no interruption of debate or interference or delay caused to the orders of the day. In fact, at the time, my remarks did not even trigger heckling or groans.

In summary, Mr. Speaker, I ask you to rule that the comments I made on March 2 were not out of order because: (a) the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons should have raised any objections he may have had to my comments on March 2 at that time and not at this late date; (b) my comments of March 2 do not constitute unparliamentary language in that they did not cause disorder in the House; and (c) saying that a minister or the government is acting in a way that is typical of or consistent with the actions of a right-wing authoritarian regime should not in and of itself be considered unparliamentary.

In closing, I draw the Chair's attention to the fact that in the context of objecting to my remarks, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons accused me of being hypocritical.

Mr. Speaker, I point out that accusing another member of hypocrisy is itself unparliamentary. I refer you to pages 363 and 364 of Bourinot's fourth edition, where it states, “It is out of order to...accuse [an hon. member] of being 'hypocritical'”. That reference is from 1872. A similar reference to a ruling on March 22, 1927, in Beauchesne's second edition, also cites using the word “hypocrites” as being out of order.

The words “hypocrite”, “hypocrites” and “hypocritical” were consistently found to be out of order in rulings from the Chair in February, June, on July 5 and on July 8 of 1961, in a particularly bad rash of using the word “hypocritical”.

Because I am not hypocritical, Mr. Speaker, I am not formally asking you to order the parliamentary secretary to withdraw or to apologize for this hurtful insult. Instead, I maintain, as I have consistently, that such an objection should have been raised on March 21 at the time the parliamentary secretary's insulting remarks were made.

In closing, may I simply reiterate that I do not accept that anything I said on March 2 warrants withdrawal, nor should you, I would hope, deem it to be unparliamentary.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I do not take any solace in stating that I think today we have hit a new low in this place when an hon. member would stand in his place and try to defend the indefensible, try to excuse the inexcusable, which is when he called another member in the House Il Duce, comparing that individual to Mussolini.

Let us just imagine if this is allowed to stand. What will be next? There will be people in this place compared to Adolf Hitler. That is where this is headed. The hon. member knows that.

He has to know that, yet he stands in his place and tries to defend that use of language, saying that to be called a fascist in Parliament is not such a bad thing, that it is okay for this to go on.

He brings in the whole issue of timeliness. I think you are well aware, Mr. Speaker, of the fact that my colleague did not rise on a point of order earlier because he was waiting for the member to return to the chamber.

We are not allowed, of course, to say when a member is or is not in the chamber, but there is such a thing as common courtesy, something that the hon. member would be wise to remember.

Common courtesy dictates that when one is going to challenge an individual about something he or she has said in this place, it is common courtesy to wait until that member returns to the House before one stands and accuses them of something. I think that is only proper. My colleague did that.

As for the whole specious argument about the fact that there was an issue of timeliness here, I do not think that is at all relevant. I think the remarks stand for themselves.

I think, Mr. Speaker, that when you look at the nature of these remarks as directed to the hon. Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, you will have to rule that the member withdraw those remarks forthwith and offer an unqualified apology for this use of language.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader rising on the same point of order?

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Yes, Mr. Speaker. I thank you for recognizing me since I was the one who raised this point of order originally. I want to underscore some of the remarks made by my colleague, the hon. government whip.

I was frankly amazed, because I have great respect for the member for Winnipeg Centre except when he tries to defend the use of the word “fascist” in a manner that he says is appropriate. I do not believe that at any point during any debate a comparison of any member in this place to a fascist dictator can, by anyone's definition, be considered acceptable or appropriate.

What I find even more distressing, as he was making his defence of the terms fascist, Il Duce and Mussolini, is that members of his own party, who have stood in this place on countless occasions and asked for civility and decorum, were laughing. They thought this was a joke. They thought he was making a statement that was considered, by their standards at least, humorous.

When is it ever humorous to refer to any member in this place as a fascist dictator? I find this reprehensible and unconscionable. And as for him standing and acting as the victim in this, saying that I said the attitude of the NDP, which had asked for decorum and civility, is both sanctimonious and hypocritical, he now is acting like he is the injured puppy, like he is the victim in this.

I know he is trying to deflect criticism, but the fact of the matter is that he stood in this place, and he has admitted it today, and referred to another member, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, as Il Duce, Mussolini, a fascist dictator, and that is absolutely unacceptable, by anyone's standards.

My last point is again to underscore what my hon. colleague, the chief government whip, said about the timeliness of my intervention. You will recall, Mr. Speaker, that there was a two week break. After that break, I came back and you and I had discussions, Mr. Speaker. You knew I was going to be raising this point of order, and I, as my hon. colleague has suggested, waited until the member was in the House. I wanted to give him the courtesy of listening to my intervention and allowing him the opportunity to respond.

But unfortunately, now that he has heard my intervention, he has taken several days to craft a response to defend the term “fascist” in comparison to a member of the House. As I said in my original intervention, that is a slur on the character of not only the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food but of every member of the House. I ask, Mr. Speaker, that your ruling be that he withdraw those remarks immediately and unreservedly.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud that I presented the minority report in the House of Commons asking for a code of conduct, which the Conservative Party refused, to give more power to the Speaker of the House. Now the Conservatives are crying and screaming that they are not treated fairly, but we wanted to change the parliamentary code of the House of Commons.

But making an argument and calling the member an “injured puppy”, is that parliamentary? Not too long ago in the House of Commons on that side of the House members from the Conservative Party were screaming, “Taliban Jack, Taliban Jack”. Was that parliamentary? I did not see them stand up in the House of Commons and ask for an apology from their own party.

Mr. Speaker, what I want to refer you to is page 124 of Marleau and Montpetit.

On page 124 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, under the heading Raising at the First Opportunity, it says:

The matter of privilege to be raised in the House must have recently arisen and must call for the immediate action of the House. Therefore, Members must satisfy the Speaker that the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.

Even after the two-week break, he waited three days after we came back to the House of Commons.

The book is very clear on this subject:

—must have recently arisen and must call for the immediate action of the House. Therefore, Members must satisfy the Speaker that the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.

He did not raise it at the earliest opportunity.

When a Member does not fulfil this important requirement, the Speaker has ruled that the matter is not a prima facie question of privilege.

I therefore base my argument on the fact that, in this case, he had the opportunity to do it on Monday when the House of Commons resumed sitting. He waited until Wednesday.

Why did he wait two weeks and three days to bring this matter to your attention, Mr. Speaker? This is why I would urge you to decide that this is unacceptable.

Comments by Member for Winnipeg Centre
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I think I have heard enough on this matter to proceed. With all respect to the hon. member for Mississauga South, I think I will proceed now.

First, with respect to the element of time in this matter, I will tell you right now that in my view this was raised at the earliest reasonable opportunity. The remarks were made on Friday afternoon, March 2. The House did not sit again until Monday, March 19.

The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader indicated to me that he wished to raise the matter, but because the member for Winnipeg Centre was not here that day he declined to do so and waited until, as he has stated, he was here.

Therefore, on the first occasion that the member was here following a question period when there could have been a presentation made, the parliamentary secretary did raise the matter. I am satisfied this was raised at the earliest reasonable opportunity in the circumstances and any argument on that point is dismissed out of hand.

The question of the use of language of course is an interesting one. We have had, as the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has pointed out, rulings in the past that have made certain words unparliamentary. I recall one time when I made an argument and had the Speaker rule the word “windbag” as unparliamentary when applied to hon. members. As far as I know, that ruling still stands.

There are rulings of other words that have been made in the past where clearly a word has become more politically acceptable and has been used in the House and is used in the House. That is true, I am sure, over the long period that this House has had this kind of a decision made by the Speaker.

I am going to take the matter under advisement. I have heard the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader and his initial remarks on this matter, and the hon. Chief Government Whip.

The hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst also contributed to the discussion and the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre has now made his opinions known to the Chair.

I will take these matters under advisement and come back to the House with a ruling on whether the terms used by the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre were in fact unparliamentary. If so, there will be a withdrawal required, and if not, we will leave the matter, but I will come back to the House in due course. Since hon. members have had time to consider this matter, I think it is only fair that the Chair have time to consider the matter too and come back with a ruling on this, and I will do so.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that this House approve in general the budgetary policy of the government.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard.

It has been just over a week since the Conservative government delivered its second budget in 14 months, and unfortunately, but not surprisingly, it fails on the test of foreign policy. In addressing foreign policy needs, the government is basically silent.

Although the government claims that it has delivered something for everyone, it really has not dealt with the area of foreign policy. It should not be a surprise, because foreign policy is amateur hour when it comes to the Conservatives. They do not really have a focus on foreign policy. Other than the United States and Afghanistan, they think they can do without the rest of the world. Unfortunately this is very true when it comes to the budget.

I would point out that Nancy Hughes Anthony, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce made the comment:

The government promised in November that they were going to make Canada more competitive and control spending and I think they broke that promise today.

It certainly did on being more competitive. I will get into that when it comes to a number of issues around the world where the government has failed.

The present government likes to talk about the previous Liberal government, so let us talk about the previous Liberal government. In 2005 we put forth the CANtrade strategy which provided $485 million over five years to help Canadian business succeed in emerging markets. The Conservatives scrapped this initiative and have now replaced it with $60 million over the next two years.

The Conservatives also cut $970 million from indirect costs of research programs which cuts assistance to Canadian universities. How are we going to be competitive abroad when this kind of narrow action is taken?

The budget says that the government is going to double international assistance by 2010-11. The Conservatives talk about their commitment of an additional $200 million for reconstruction in Afghanistan, $115 million initially, and $230 million to the issues of advanced markets, but the Liberal government in 2005 provided an increase of $3.4 billion over five years for international assistance, and committed to double official development assistance to over $5 billion by 2010.

The previous Liberal government understood the international community. It was out there. It was clear that it worked hand in glove with the international community and certainly with Canadian business and Canadian universities. Unfortunately, the Conservative government's view of the world is very different.

The government has changed the whole approach and structure on Afghanistan, and its mission is exclusively, it seems, military. We do not see the accountability factors when it comes to development assistance. We are providing more financial dollars to Afghanistan, yet it is not in the top 25 of CIDA recipients. We see that it is spending 10 times more money on the military than on humanitarian assistance in the Afghan theatre, and $200 million for Afghanistan in this budget is not new money. The Conservatives are very good at recycling money, but again it is the same money that the Prime Minister announced in the previous month.

In 2004 the Liberal government passed Bill C-9, the Jean Chrétien pledge to Africa which improved access to expensive drugs for the world's least developed countries in the fight against HIV-AIDS, malaria and other epidemics.

This budget talks about $175 million to accelerate implementation of a Canada first defence plan and $10 million to establish new operational stress injury clinics. The reality is that the government's Canada first defence plan is at odds with the priorities of the armed forces. Much of the equipment will not even be located or maintained in Canada, effectively selling out Canadian sovereignty, of course, and more important, depriving our aerospace industry of significant economic benefits.

In 2005 the Liberal government created a new veterans charter that provided for the most sweeping changes to veterans services and benefits since the end of the second world war. During the 2005 federal election, the Conservatives promised to veterans that they would immediately extend the veterans independence program and services to all second world war and Korean veterans, and of course resolve the agent orange issue.

The government made a promise of $80 million to make CSIS operations more effective. What does this really mean? On a review of the budget, the reality is there is not a real commitment as to how the money will be spent.

There has been no commitment in the budget to hire, for example, more police officers. The government talks about law and order, but it does not walk the talk. It is this party that talked about hiring and will hire 2,500 new officers across the country and provide that assistance. In budget 2007 the government commits no new money for additional police officers. Again, the Conservatives like to talk about crime, but they do not walk the talk.

The Conservatives talk about the previous Liberal government, that the Liberal government did this and that. The reality is the facts certainly show something different. On foreign policy it seems that anything we did they think is bad. They come in and change direction, but they have no substantive policy to assist in innovation, in dealing with international trade, et cetera.

There are two examples on China which are unbelievable. At the beginning of the mandate of the Conservative government, in February when the Conservatives announced the new cabinet, they said there were a thousand Chinese spies in Canada. They could not back that one up. Then the Prime Minister said he was going to talk tough on human rights. He had a 15 minute bathroom break with Hu Jintao, the Chinese president, in Hanoi in November last year. Assuming that eight minutes were used for translation, he had seven minutes in which he could talk about human rights, trade issues and a whole list of things which he is so proud of. Again the Chinese were not impressed.

Clearly this party when in government had a consistent policy of engagement with China. This party has been working, not only on the trade issue, but on tough talk, working with the Chinese and improving the judiciary, improving human rights in the area. One of the most galling things has got to be the short-sightedness of the government in closing four consulates: in Milan, in St. Petersburg, in Fukuoka, and Osaka. Let us take a look at that.

When we look at the Kansai region of Osaka, it has 25 million people, a GDP greater than all of Canada, and the government says, “No, no, it is okay to business. You can do business in the Kansai region. We are going to hand out”--and this is from the minister--“handbooks”. Handbooks do not cut it.

The second largest economy in the world is Japan. It has an economy greater than all of Asia combined, including China, and the Conservatives' answer to Canadian business, Canadian investors, in one of the most important markets outside of the United States is to say “We will close down the consulate and we will hand out handbooks”. This really is not too impressive. Who is not impressed by this? Let us take a look.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said that the consulates also serve as a focal point for the collection and dissemination of information for Japanese and Canadian companies, organizations and individuals. Anyone who knows Asia knows that the issue is friendship first, business second. We have to be on the ground. We have to have those contacts. They do not have those contacts because now they will be giving out handbooks.

The Conservative government is swimming in money, thanks to the good economic management of previous Liberal governments which eliminated the deficit. Remember that when we came to power in 1993, that side of the House had left us a $42.5 billion deficit. The Conservatives seem to forget that. Unfortunately, or fortunately for them, we left them with more money than they know what to do with. Of course now they are spending it here, there and everywhere, but there is no focus. They have all this money, but they have to close four consulates. That seems to me to be just unbelievable.

The comment of the Canada-Japan Society is that even prior to the announced closing of the consulates in Osaka and Fukuoka, Canadian interests were underrepresented in Japan relative to Japan's importance to Canada as a market for our goods, a source of tourists and students and a major source of investment in the Canadian resource and automotive sectors. They are people who know the Japanese market. They wrote the Prime Minister at the end of January and there was silence from that side of the House.

There is no question that when it comes to the area of foreign affairs, when it comes to the kinds of investments for Canadian business to be competitive, to be a player, the Conservatives have been silent and they have cut back.

There is no question that the former Japanese ambassador was very concerned about this approach. Japanese colleagues in Tokyo were absolutely astounded that we would take such an approach in terms of dealing with this. The government thinks it can deal with it out of Tokyo. It thinks it can deal with it out of Rome.

The government does not understand foreign policy. It is demonstrated in the budget the government presented last week.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, like many citizens across the country, I was extremely disappointed when I saw the details of this budget, which does very little, far too little, for the millions of Canadians who have a very hard time making ends meet.

This budget demonstrates once again the Conservative government's blatant lack of sensitivity towards ordinary Canadians, the very people who are working hard to provide for their families and for whom the tax burden is much too heavy. In fact, this budget contains no relief for such people, and that is the sad truth.

Instead, the Conservative government chose to favour those in the wealthier social classes. This should hardly come as a surprise, especially considering the Conservative government's ideological bias in favour of those at the top of the social ladder. Many Canadians were therefore baffled while taking a closer look at what is in the budget. Some of them had believed the Conservative Party promise, when, during the last election campaign, it said it wanted to introduce so-called “real changes” that were supposed to help them in their daily lives. These individuals' bafflement quickly turned to disappointment, because they felt, and rightly so, that they were entitled to receive much more than this budget delivers. The budget does nothing to improve their financial situation, which is already very difficult and tight.

For example, how can this government justify its budget when it allows individuals whose annual revenue is over $300,000 to pocket an additional $930, while there is absolutely nothing in the budget to improve the financial situation of most middle-class Canadians?

How can this government pretend that its budget is in the interests of average Canadians when people living on barely $40,000 for themselves and their families can find nothing in it to help them meet their material needs?

How can this government claim to have considered families at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder when mothers in single-parent families who work long hours for little more than $20,000 a year are not entitled to receive all the tax credits on the fallacious pretext that their incomes are too high? What is the Conservative government doing for mothers in this situation? Absolutely nothing.

How can this government pretend to be helping young couples with unstable jobs who are unable to find permanent employment or working conditions worthy of the name and who, with annual household incomes of barely $25,000 a year, were simply ignored in the Conservative budget, which failed to provide anything at all to help them help themselves and finally look forward to a more stable future?

The so-called universal child care benefit, which is neither universal nor for child care services, is fully taxable. The government will therefore recover an average of $400 per family. The 2006 child care plan was therefore a complete illusion.

These examples of hard-working Canadians who got absolutely nothing in the Conservative government’s budget are far from the only ones. There is a whole array of people who make our society productive and prosperous but were abandoned in this budget. It is clear to everyone that people like them cannot count on this government, which has absolutely no concern for them.

The Conservatives are implementing tax measures that seem helpful at first sight but the advantages they bestow are negated by the tax increases on low- and moderate-income Canadians that were hidden away in last year’s budget and still have not been rescinded. Instead of really dealing with the challenges facing Canadians, the Conservatives stuffed their budget with short-sighted measures aimed at helping them win a quick election that Canadians neither want nor need.

The very purpose of political commitment and, by extension, that of any responsible government, should always be to improve the living conditions of the greatest possible number of people and to use available resources whenever possible. This budget clearly demonstrates that the Conservative government does not share this view of public service and that it is acting only on behalf of one part of the population, and certainly not for the betterment of those experiencing the greatest difficulties or of the middle class which faces the highest tax burden.

Yet, Canadians know very well that the Conservative government inherited some of the healthiest public finances and very significant surpluses—as a result of the rigorous and prudent management of the Liberal governments between 1993 and 2006—that could enable it to do much better and do a great deal more for ordinary people.

Unfortunately, we are faced with a government that is squandering this potentially enormous resource by primarily favouring the wealthiest social classes.

We, the Liberals, have a better understanding of justice and social equity. Canadians will acknowledge this at the next election, when the Conservative government will be accountable to the voters.

As the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard, I am honoured to represent a very large number of immigrants who have become Canadian citizens. Like them, I am very shocked that the Conservative government has not kept its promise by refusing to establish a Canadian agency to evaluate and recognize credentials.

Every week I meet with these people who see their chances for social and economic integration in our country severely curtailed because their qualifications, although real, are not recognized. Many of them belong to professions in high demand in this country. That is an unfair waste of skilled labour. Many lives are ruined in this way.

Why did the Conservative government go back on a solemn promise made in the last election? How can the government renege on such a pressing commitment? Can these people trust the Conservatives another time? Above all, how can these individuals hope to take their rightful place in this country, especially since we need their talents and their skills?

This is tangible proof that the government has little interest in keeping a promise or in building a country that will be genuinely inclusive for those who choose to live here. In addition, this budget offers nothing to rectify the unacceptable delays that are building up for immigration applications.

In terms of family reunification cases, which drag on, naturalization proceedings, which take much too long, or the never-ending wait for asylum seekers, no concrete measures were taken in this budget to make life easier or to alleviate the legitimate concerns of thousands of people whose lives have been put in danger by the mismanagement this government's inaction encourages.

I have only mentioned a few from a very long list of examples which, in this budget, show how little this government cares about the real concerns of a very large category of our population.

I think the Government of Canada has a duty to serve the best interests of all Canadians. It is clear from the budget that the Conservative government holds quite a different view.

Canadians deserve much better from a government that has the resources to take action. For these reasons, I will vote against the budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
The Budget
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member concerning the fact that this budget does nothing to help ordinary working Canadians. However, the many years of empty Liberal promises were much the same, there is no doubt.

My question for the hon. member is this. When the Liberal Party had the opportunity to show its support for workers by supporting Bill C-257, an anti-scab bill, the Liberals voted against it, for the most part. Can the hon. member explain to the House the reasons behind this, if—as he says—the Liberals really want to support Canadian workers?