Mr. Speaker, today, I want to tell the Minister of Finance how disappointed and concerned the government's budget has left my constituents.
I can still picture the finance minister putting on the workboots he was given by the Prime Minister. What a show! What cynicism on the part of the Liberals! The 30 per cent of workers who do not have a job in my riding will not put their workboots on today, nor tomorrow, for that matter.
The members opposite had promised job creation measures.
They went on and on, saying that it was their number one priority. Where are those measures? Where is this plan for economic renewal they have been touting around?
People in Laurentides can now judge for themselves the Liberals' lack of action in the job creation field. The government is falling back on its infrastructure program, totally inadequate as it is to put the unemployed back to work. What lack of realism!
With the number of jobs which will be created in my riding, hardly a few hundred according to a quick calculation, it is obvious that workboots dealers in the Laurentians will not be raking it in.
For workers, it is discouraging to see the government do so little against unemployment. The federal government invests peanuts, and then sits down, hoping for this supposed economic recovery to happen. However, economists agree that this recovery, if there is one, will not bring about the creation of a high number of jobs.
The people opposite are quite aware of this. But they prefer to wait, to stand by, instead of taking action. This new government must not have anything new or original to offer to the 1.6 million unemployed in our country, but a lot of talk and no action.
To people in my riding, the Liberals are not much different from the Conservative government, a government which was rejected, or I should say ejected, because of its inaction and its unacceptable decisions. The message given on October 25 does not seem to be working, unless members opposite have chosen to ignore it. You promised jobs to the unemployed. But what have you done in that area? Do you really believe that your are fully and truly honouring the commitments you made before October 25? I do not think so, and neither do my unemployed constituents. They are asking for positive action that will give them hope and let them see light at the end of the tunnel. They just want this government to resolutely show its will to help them and put them back to work. We cannot say that the finance minister's budget is very convincing in that regard.
The government's attitude toward the unemployed follows a strange sort of logic, one that these people will have trouble swallowing. The Liberals are saying: "We are creating or will be creating jobs". But, in actual fact, they are doing very little in the short term. As for the long term, nothing is planned at the federal level. There is no vision in this budget.
First, there are no jobs, and this directly affects the people who want to work. Second, the government turns around and makes a 2 per cent cut in UI benefit rates on the backs of the unemployed, victims of the incapacity of the people opposite. Third, labour is told: "From now on, you will have to work longer to qualify for these lower benefits". Low and middle-income workers in my riding, several of whom are seasonal or contract workers, have just been dealt three stiff blows by the Liberals.
My fellow citizens who were working hard and were always looking for long-term employment instead of makeshift jobs are going to have to work magic and pray God or providence to get the additional unemployment insurance stamps they need.
Regarding the benefit rate which is being increased to 60 per cent for individuals with modest incomes who support children, an aged parent or other dependants, all those concerned are anxious to know how the federal government will determine who should belong to that category of recipients.
I can see from here UI officers asking applicants whether their children are really dependants and requesting written proof. I can see them conducting enquiries to determine whether there is a common-law spouse or another income-earner in the applicant's household. In Quebec, we have had our "boubous macoutes". Are we about to witness the emergence of a new breed of macoutes, the federal Liberal macoutes?
These measures will affect many single-parent families, often headed by women. I sincerely believe that, by establishing classes of beneficiaries, the government is fostering a climate of distrust that will lead to significant social tensions. It can be concluded that, as far as unemployment insurance is concerned, the Liberal budget is far from brilliant.
Another aspect of this budget a lot of people from my riding contact me about is the tax credit available to people aged 65 and over. Seniors do not accept this unfair decision. The minister tells us that this reduction will affect only 25 per cent of senior citizens, who built this country. It is outrageous to hear from the members opposite that our seniors with a $25,000 net income are rich people. This decision affects once again middle-income taxpayers and 800,000 seniors in my riding, in Quebec and in Canada.
The minister appears to have picked a target that was easier and especially less influential that the family trust lobby. What an unfair and irresponsible choice on the part of the Liberals! True, these seniors do not contribute to the Liberal Party coffers to the tune of $45,000 a year.