Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thanks to all witnesses for being here today.
I would first like to make a general comment before asking more specific questions. Canada is in the midst of an economic crisis and that should be the priority of the government and of all political parties. Today, we learned that retail sales have plunged significantly. A few minutes ago, I received a message from someone whose employment insurance benefits will run out on April 4. This person wants to know whether the budget will be adopted so that he can take advantage of the 5-week extension of benefits.
I'm saying that although there is much in this budget that we think is bad, that we do not like, and that we think should be separated from the budget because it has nothing to do with the economy, nevertheless for us the economy is job one. The massive employment losses and a crisis we haven't seen in our lifetimes have to be addressed. The government should have acted many months ago, and it failed to do so. But now the government has billions that can go out the door, and we think our top priority is to make sure there is no further delay in that support to the economy, which will help many Canadians not lose their jobs.
That is our basic position, even if we do not agree with the government on many aspects of the budget.
I'd like to ask something principally to Claire Morris and perhaps to Mr. Ian Boyko.
One aspect of the budget that we don't like and that hasn't been discussed much recently is that it has no long-run vision for the Canadian economy in the 21st century.
Ms. Morris talked about infrastructure. Yes, the government is building bricks and mortar. At least they allege that they are. One of the things we will do is monitor them, because their record in getting money out the door on bricks and mortar has been deplorable. But we don't need just bricks and mortar. We need the brains that will drive the 21st-century economy. We saw in this budget very little or nothing for science. We saw Genome Canada cut off. We saw research grants cut. We've seen very little for education, which clearly has to be a priority if we're to build a smart economy going forward.
I'd like to ask Ms. Morris this. I know you like the infrastructure. Any university would like that. But where is the vision for an ideas-based knowledge economy, especially when you compare it with Barack Obama's vision? Barack Obama put billions into science and research. We've put in next to nothing or made cutbacks. Don't you think that might put Canada at a competitive disadvantage compared with the United States and other countries that seem to believe in science and technology in a way that this government does not?