Mr. Speaker, let me say first of all that the member opposite is absolutely right to talk in terms of fiscal responsibility. Let me repeat what I know the member is well aware of.
The New Democratic Party brought forward a very clear set of priorities that would have resulted in the balancing of the budget. It would have resulted in the elimination of the deficit ahead of the deficit reduction targets of the Liberal government and the finance minister.
The difference is that it would have done so at a lower level of unemployment. In other words we would have accepted the challenge, we absolutely accept the challenge of eliminating the deficit. There is more than one way to achieve it.
The way the Liberal government chose to achieve it was to wipe out over $7 billion in social spending for health, education and for basic social support services for children and families in this society, and then congratulated itself for eliminating the deficit. But the government completely failed to recognize that there is not just a fiscal deficit to be concerned about, there is a social deficit. What that means is that we have added to the health deficit in this country. We have added to the education deficit in this country. We have added the burdens that make it all the more difficult for us to move forward in this country from a position of strength. Now those deficits have to be addressed.
The member opposite asks a perfectly fair and reasonable question. What would the New Democratic Party have done instead? Would we have said to heck with the deficit? Not at all. We put forward a program that would have eliminated the deficit ahead of the finance minister's targets, but we would have done it through growth in the economy. We would have done it by making jobs the number one priority, which is what Canadians want and what they still want, instead of saying we will continue to live with over a million and a half Canadians remaining unemployed. At least that many or more are continuing to be severely underemployed.
I do not know whether the member could think of a defence when given those two choices, either choosing in favour of reducing the deficit while unemployment remains at highly inflated levels or whether he would agree that it is a question of having different choices available and choosing the one which has done the most damage to people instead of the one which would have strengthened the economy and allowed us to move forward.
The member talks about us being bankrupt in this country. It is very hard to make a case for bankruptcy as being the lot of many Canadians when we look at the record profits which corporations have amassed over the last couple of years. The bank sector alone has made profits of over $7 billion. That is where the money is. It is not a question of there not being any money. Canada is wealthier than it has ever been in its history.
The questions are what are we doing with that wealth? How are we reinvesting that wealth for the benefit of all Canadians, not just for the benefit of a privileged few? What are we doing to make sure we strengthen the base, the foundation, on which all Canadians can move forward to share in the benefits of the new economy and to know that our country is headed in a direction which really deals with the basic needs and priorities of Canadians?