Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Fraser Valley East.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss a topic that seldom gets mentioned in the House by the Liberal government, British Columbia. Perhaps it is the time difference, perhaps it is the mountain barriers, but in any event B.C. is not a big deal here in Ottawa. That is usually okay with British Columbians; we feel that is just fine.
I have listened with a lot of amusement but some distress at the Liberal members taking full credit for the economic well-being of the province of British Columbia. It is making a mockery and undermining the sacrifices, the investments, the time and effort of the business community in the lower mainland, which is responsible for the economic development. If anything, it is in spite of the government that these business entrepreneurs have been able to withstand the high taxes, the rules, the regulations and the red tape. The only thing I have seen Liberal government members do is travel overseas and wine, dine and schmooze. I have not seen anything more concrete than that. It is the business community which takes the responsibility for the economic well-being.
We are glad that years ago the federal government quietly transferred the ownership of Vancouver's international airport to a local non-profit authority. Without the interference of Ottawa politicians and bureaucrats, Vancouver international airport has transformed itself into an elite international airport. It has successfully been able to handle the phenomenal growth in the travelling public and is now able to look ahead to even more expansion.
I was at a Vancouver morning club the other day where they were toasting and roasting David Emerson, the CEO of the Vancouver airport authority. I did not see the Minister of Transport, the minister responsible for B.C., at that function honouring the individual who has led the airport authority into tremendous success.
Contrast Vancouver's quiet airport success with the Pearson airport disaster that this government has led us through. Since the day this Liberal government got elected it has been consumed with the Pearson airport deal. The best thing the government is hoping for now is that this deal will cost Canadian taxpayers tens of millions of dollars instead of hundreds of millions of dollars. Meanwhile in Vancouver the amount of money that the federal government has received from the airport authority has more than doubled.
That is the way we do things out west. Ignored by the federal government, we keep adding great amounts of money to the federal treasury while in the rest of Canada the Liberal government keeps sticking its nose into issues that it should not and keeps costing the taxpayers millions of dollars.
For the most part, British Columbians do not look to Ottawa for the big government projects or government handouts. The attitude in the west is that we can be successful on our own and we only hope that Ottawa does not screw it up for us.
In the last 1970s representatives from the British Columbia provincial government were hard at work trying to get one of the big Japanese auto manufacturers to set up an assembly plant in B.C. Toyota showed a fair amount of interest and formal negotiations began. Then in the early 1980s the federal government entered into its own negotiations with Toyota at the exclusion of the British Columbian representatives.
Soon the big announcement came that Toyota would be building a new North American assembly plant in Ontario. As a thought to B.C. Toyota did announcement that it would build a wheel assembly plant in Richmond, B.C. This plant has proven to be very successful for Toyota and we welcome the jobs. However, it probably would have been more appropriate if Toyota had set up a drive train plant in B.C. Then the Liberal government of the day could have announced that Toyota would open up a major assembly plant in Ontario and at the same time British Columbia would get the shaft.
We have heard about the big projects that the previous government threw our way to try to get our votes. And we are still waiting for the Polar-8 icebreaker to rejuvenate our shipbuilding industry. We are still waiting for Kaon linear accelerator to make B.C. a leader in atomic research.
In reality we are not really waiting. British Columbians know that these projects were just cheap political promises by the previous Tory government. Now that the Tories have disappeared
from B.C.'s political map things must have changed with the Liberal government, right?
The Liberal government is not making any outrageous promises or creating any megaprojects to get the voters' attention. Not yet anyway. It is still working on its election platform. Instead, the Liberal government has taken an entirely new approach. Rather than promise us projects which it has no intention of delivering, it is simply removing any vestige of the federal government out of the province. Lighthouse keepers, coast guard officials and the only military base on the mainland of British Columbia are on their way out.
Let us look at the lighthouse keepers. On Saturday an American pilot was flying from Alaska to his home in Washington state when his plane went down near Bella Bella. However, due to the diligence of the lighthouse keeper on McInnes Island, a fishing boat was dispatched precisely to the crash site and was able to rescue the pilot. Of course this lighthouse is scheduled for automation.
What would have happened without a human lighthouse keeper? Perhaps the Minister of Transport would like to tell the House what would have happened to him that day when he needed a person to rescue him when he got into distress in his boat. On second thought, maybe we do not care.
The cutbacks to lighthouses and the Canadian Coast Guard are going to cost lives. The problem is the government's priorities. The priorities of the Liberal government are all mixed up. It is cutting the coast guard at a time when those services are desperately needed.
There was a case in my riding where there was a crab boat in the bay that was on fire. If not for the United States coast guard coming to the rescue, the crew of the crab boat would have perished.
The powers that be at the coast guard headquarters here in Ottawa think they can save money by closing down a few coast guard stations in B.C. and by having the main stations manned only during certain hours. The message to B.C. boaters is do not get into trouble in B.C. waters unless you are around a major city during working hours.
This type of policy would appear to have been dreamed up by some bureaucrat whose idea of high sea adventure is taking a ferry across the Ottawa River.
All of this is in an attempt to save money. Why does the government not cut some of the bureaucrats in the offices instead of those on the front lines who deliver the services?
How will the coast guard spend the rest of its money? While the coast guard is going to close down stations in B.C. and put lives at risk, it will use some of the money it saves to send 170 senior bureaucrats to Cornwall next month to "meet and have fun". That is how the government memo reads. It will be a great relief to B.C. boaters to know that while the coast guard is cutting back on rescue services, senior bureaucrats will still have the opportunity to meet and have fun.
It is not just the coast guard which is cutting back. Our military is doing it as well. By closing CFB Chilliwack the government is closing the only military base on the mainland of British Columbia against the recommendations of senior military officers still capable of independent thought.
This move by the Liberal government is costing hundreds of millions of dollars in building facilities in Edmonton to receive the base from Chilliwack. This is after having just spent hundreds of millions of dollars on new facilities in Chilliwack. It just does not make any sense.
It made sense to have Canada's military engineers stationed in the province with the most difficult terrain in the country as well as near a major urban centre which has the highest probability of a major earthquake. However, because it did make sense, the government is closing the base and shipping the engineers across the country.
Who will British Columbians have to rely on in the event of a major earthquake? Certainly not Ottawa. If the greater Vancouver area suffers a major earthquake and needs military assistance, the only people in a position to help will be our friends south of the border.
That is why most British Columbians think north-south more than they think east-west. That is why most British Columbians are quite familiar with the concept of Cascadia. When I mentioned Cascadia in the House a couple of years ago nobody knew what it was. The library had to phone my office to find out how it is even spelled. British Columbians are strong supporters of the Canadian ideals of fairness and equality. They are still waiting for this government to understand the concept.
Last month the federal government quickly came up with an extra $6 million for Quebec after that province complained it was taking on over half of Canada's refugees.
Never mind that Quebec already receives $90 million a year or over 35 per cent of all the federal moneys spent on settlement of immigrants despite the fact that Quebec only takes 13 per cent of these immigrants and despite the fact that 77 per cent of economic immigrants to Quebec leave that province.
Contrast this reaction to how this Liberal government treated B.C. when it cut of welfare payments to people who had not lived in the province for three months because of a dramatic increase in
numbers when other provinces started giving their welfare recipients bus tickets to B.C.
The Liberals responded by withholding $45 million in federal funds to British Columbia. Fairness and equality are what British Columbians are looking for. That is what we have learned not to expect from this Liberal government.