That, in the opinion of this House, the government should cease and desist its sustained legislative and political attacks on the lives and livelihoods of rural Canadians and the communities where they live.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat.
The topic for today's official opposition motion does not come from us as MPs but from Canadians. We are a vast country and the vast majority of the people who live beyond the glare of the big city lights are fed up. They feel neglected by the Liberal government and they are telling us so. I imagine that Liberal backbench MPs have been told the same thing by their constituents for the last eight years, but sadly these common sense appeals from rural voters have fallen on the deaf ears of the Liberals.
As evidence of this I will cite that over the last couple of weeks a fear of being dethroned during the next election has been spreading among the Liberal backbenchers. Some of them have even been brave enough to speak up against the Prime Minister's dictatorial ways. These Liberal MPs will again accept minor word changes by the government and consider that a victory. The Liberal elite laughs at how easily duped they are: A few grants and handouts later, they are back barking like trained seals.
If the constituents in those Liberal ridings want to see real change, they should elect Canadian Alliance MPs. We have been in the lead in championing these issues important to ordinary Canadians for the last eight years. The government implements our policies, but much too slowly to make the dramatic changes that are needed to turn our economic engines into economic dynamos. The Liberals would rather use taxes and red tape until the industries are hurting so bad that they need to subsidize them.
Only when the Liberals are subsidizing things do they consider their programs and policies a success. Slush funds and political patronage they understand; economic development they do not. Slush funds, by the way, are used mainly to buy votes. If the government had implemented Reform Party agricultural policies in 1994, many thousands of farmers would not be facing the crisis they are today. Unfortunately in eight years the Liberals have learned nothing. In fact they have become more arrogant, anti-democratic and corrupt. They look for new ideas among the bureaucrats and Liberal backroomers when the best ideas are right in front of their noses. All they have do is listen to the people who are on the long-suffering end of their failed policies and programs.
The Liberals are experts at pitting one group of Canadians against the other and nowhere is this more evident than in the way they have pitted urban voters against rural voters, the very essence of what we are bringing forward today. The Liberals play up to animal rights groups at the expense of farmers, hunters and fishermen. They try to ram animal cruelty legislation through parliament and make farmers out to be the bad guys when the opposite is true. No one cares more about animals than farmers do. The Liberals play up to the environmental lobby groups by trying to ram endangered species legislation through the House, but they are dishonest with both environmentalists and farmers because the laws they wish to enact will not protect endangered species and will force farmers to abandon their land without being paid fair market value for their land.
The Liberals play up to urban voters by telling them they are doing something to fight violent crime in the city by forcing millions of law-abiding citizens to register their guns, this despite data from Statistics Canada and insurance company actuaries that prove that responsible gun owners are no threat to themselves, their families, neighbours or communities. Anyone listening today must be starting to see a trend developing here. Last week the backbencher from Dufferin--Peel--Wellington--Grey acknowledged this serious problem in a letter to his caucus colleagues. He stated:
I believe that unless [the bill] is amended, there will be a perception in rural Canada that once again a law tailored to urban interests is being thrust upon the rural community. Those of us representing rural ridings know all too well the divisiveness and distrust that remains from our government's passage of C-68, the gun registration law.
That strikes to the very heart of what we are talking about today.
Our speakers will outline failure after failure of Liberal policies and programs. Today we will describe Liberal legislation and programs that have failed rural Canadians: legislation like Bill C-5, Bill C-15B, Bill C-68 and Bill C-4 from 1998, which perpetuated the fiftieth year of the monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board. We will describe programs like useless regional economic development funds and corporate handouts that are really slimy Liberal slush funds buying votes instead of creating real development opportunities.
We will describe today how rural Canadians have been ignored and neglected by the Liberal ruling elite while the Liberal backbenchers sit on their duffs in the House, scared they will lose their perks and access to their slush funds if they start to really represent the true needs and wishes of their constituents. We will describe Liberal neglect and mismanagement of trade issues to the detriment of the softwood lumber producers and the communities where they live and work, and Liberal neglect and mismanagement of the foreign trade and subsidy issues to the detriment of Canadian farmers and their communities.
Not only will the House hear a dry, statistical and economic argument today, it will hear about real people in real communities who are hurting because of Liberal laws and Liberal neglect.
My own province of Saskatchewan lost 15,000 jobs in the last year alone. Report Newsmagazine recently reported that the population of Saskatchewan has dropped by 26% in the last three decades. Saskatchewan should not be a have not province. Liberal policies and programs perpetuate Saskatchewan's have not status and it has to stop now. The Liberal failure to allow Canadian wheat producers to sell their wheat directly to value added processing like pasta plants is just one glaring example of Liberal neglect and stupidity.
The one area of economic opportunity in Saskatchewan is guiding and outfitting, but what do the Liberals do? They force every American hunter to pay a tax of $50 to come into Canada. Many of them stayed home last year, and it will get worse. Who are the Liberals hurting with this new tax? They are hurting farmers who are forced into getting into outfitting to help finance the losses they were suffering on the farm. Again they are at the receiving end of failed Liberal policies and programs. The Liberals are hurting aboriginal guiding and outfitting companies, one of the few economic opportunities for aboriginals living on remote reserves. Liberals would rather pay welfare than get out of the way and let aboriginal entrepreneurs prove that they can pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
What if a farmer needs to go out and buy a new rifle to shoot the coyotes that are attacking his cattle? The Department of Justice documents put the regulatory cost of buying a rifle at $279. That is before even buying the rifle and bullets. That is absolutely ridiculous and the government has the nerve to say it is not doing anything to negatively impact on law-abiding citizens who use firearms for their own livelihood.
Before my time is up I want to leave everyone with one last message for our friends in urban Canada. The Canadian Alliance is not playing the Liberal game of pitting one group of Canadians against another. We believe that sound rural and resource development policies create jobs, opportunities and wealth in urban centres. It is no secret that all the mines are in the north but most of the money from those mines flows through Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal to benefit all of the citizens of these cities.
When farmers succeed, the Canadian economy grows and jobs are created in urban centres. Development of Canada is a team effort. Unfortunately, for the last eight years the Liberals have been neglecting half of the team.
I predict that in the next election campaign the Liberals will again try to use labels to smear their opponents rather than discuss the issues important to Canadians. Today's motion is a key part of the debate that needs to take place.
Today the Canadian Alliance is saying to rural and northern Canadians “We know you are fed up and we are not going to let the Liberals get away with it any more. Like a friend of mine once said “To light a fire you start at the bottom, and it will spread upwards”. If we want the economy to start burning we need to get out of the way of our basic resource sectors; we need to stop pouring cold water all over them and instead get them back on track, be it the fisheries on our east and west coasts, the farms all across Canada, the forestry sector, the mining, oil and gas sector, or the tourism industry for hunting and shooting sports. All these rural based industries are being held back by destructive Liberal policies or neglect.
The message I have for our city cousins is this: “Please help us, for it is the economic health of urban Canada and your own jobs that are affected too”.