Mr. Speaker, I want to tell my hon. Liberal friend opposite that there are thousands of children in Cape Breton who tonight are experiencing a form of societal political child abuse.
I want to make the case that in this country when we abuse or neglect the needs of a child we are convicted of some form of child abuse. This particular package neglects not one child's needs, not 100 children's needs, not 1,000 children's needs but tens of thousands of children's needs. That is why I say this is a societal political form of child abuse that we are witnessing in the House of Commons today. This is a conscious decision by Liberal members opposite to inflict pain and suffering on the children of Cape Breton because they are going to inflict pain and suffering on the parents in Cape Breton.
Are we supposed to sit here and take this today? I have heard my colleagues opposite, who do not necessarily agree with some of the thrust of our arguments, say that they appreciate that the hardship of the folks in Cape Breton have to be acknowledged. As a matter of fact, I remember my old Liberal friend, who was not long ago the premier of Nova Scotia, describe the situation in Cape Breton as an economic crisis. Is this piddling piece of legislation how the Liberals deal with an economic crisis? Is this how they deal with a state of hopelessness that they perpetuated on the people of that part of the country?
This is a cruel and thoughtless document. This is a document that is intended to pick on the people of Cape Breton. Surely to goodness the government does not expect the people of Cape Breton to sit there quietly and take this. I know, the Liberals are going to consult. Oh my God, how pathetic a comment could one make? They say, “We're going to consult”. What is there to consult about? Do we want to consult in terms of what the alternatives are?
My colleague from Sydney—Victoria has already made a 15 page presentation of what actions could be taken. They were thoughtful, positive, progressive comments in terms of what this transitional package could look like, but there was one thing that it required in order to be properly implemented and that was proper and adequate financial investment, not this little Mickey Mouse, weasel-minded piece of legislation.
A lot of my Liberal friends opposite have said “We don't hear any positive ideas”. I do not know about them, but if they had read the proceedings of the panel and heard the presentation simply made by one member who made many presentations about all of the progressive initiatives that could be taken in that part of Canada, I am prepared to say today that with the appropriate investment by the government, Cape Breton could be turned into the economic showpiece of this great country. It requires an investment, a commitment and a willingness to put money on the line.
The government cannot say it does not have any money. It has billions and billions of dollars sitting in a fund right now called a surplus. It has money coming out of its ying-yang. It has billions and billions of dollars that it could invest if it wanted to.
One can only assume that if the government has the money it must not want to invest it properly. The will and the commitment is not there to the people of Cape Breton. They are not asking for a handout. I have heard Liberals say today that the people of Cape Breton want a handout. That is an insult.
The people from Cape Breton have moxie. They have the guts, the courage, the experience and the talent. They want to work in progressive and positive careers.
I remember a visit to Cape Breton where we had a chance to drop into the University College of Cape Breton. I do not think I will ever forget that day. There was a long lineup of young people who were students at the university college. There was the administrative staff and members of the board. Every single one of those individuals, every man and woman who made a presentation to our committee, said that they had a great future there but that they needed some resources and some infrastructure.
Can anyone imagine what the state of affairs would be in this city without any investment in the high tech infrastructure? The government says that it cannot afford it. It can afford to invest all kinds of money in the nation's capital. The University College of Cape Breton wants an investment.
My friend mentioned that there were all sorts of ideas, such as shipbuilding. We are one of the world's greatest trading nations. Should we not have a viable, dynamic shipbuilding sector? We have a delegation visiting the House of Commons industry committee tomorrow in order to make its case for developing a comprehensive and major program to develop the shipbuilding industry in the country. Can anyone imagine a better place to centre that than in Cape Breton? There is no shortage of ideas and so on in terms of how to deal with this situation.
My colleague mentioned that a lot of people today were going to lose their jobs. This will not be hundreds of people. A thousand people will lose their jobs in that part of Canada. Can anyone imagine the impact of that? Some of the economists have suggested that impact will be somewhere in the range of $1.5 billion over a few years. Hundreds and hundreds, thousands and thousands, millions and millions of dollars will be taken out of that local economy as a result of that closure.
As a member of parliament from Kamloops, I understand it because we just had a closure of a major copper mine. Thank goodness it was temporary, but I know the impact it had, not only economically but psychologically, on those people who worked hard underground in those mines. If anybody in the House of Commons had spent five minutes underground in that part of the country and saw the kind of working conditions that those men and women have struggled with for so many years, they would know that these miners deserve every particular break they can get from the government to enable them to carry on and support their families.
The government said that it decided to take a bold step and go consulting. That has got to be one of the most pathetic gestures a person could come up with. This is the same government that is now consulting over Nisga'a. The Prime Minister said that the government was not going to change one letter of that agreement or one letter of the legislation. In other words, we can consult until the cows come home but the government will not change anything. I suspect that is about the same willingness to have input into the situation now in terms of consultation in Cape Breton.
The people of Cape Breton have not been spared this kind of imposed violence against them, such as from the old coal companies that brought in people to break-up the strikes. Violence is nothing new to this part of Canada, but the people have always stood up, struggled on and been successful. They will do it again. All they are asking for is a fair break in terms of investments into that part of country through their university college and other agencies. This would enable them to pick up, carry on and do what any progressive person would want to do, turn it into an economic showpiece for the entire country.
Let us think about what the government could do for Cape Breton today if it stood up and said that it had decided to make some bold changes to ensure that every young person in Cape Breton has access to the University College of Cape Breton and that it would ensure that every person who needs upgrading and training has access, and to that end, it would eliminate the tuition fees for that institution for the next 10 years.
Goodness grief, the amount of money the government has taken out of the EI fund could have been used for the stuff that has probably spilled beside the desk of the Minister of Finance. We are not talking about a lot of money, but it is that kind of bold initiative that the government could be taking. What does it do instead? It comes in with this completely laughable piece of legislation. If it was not so serious, we would consider it to be some form of laugh-in, for Pete's sake, or some kind of yuk yuk club intervention by the minister.
This is a very serious issue. We are talking about the future of men, women, children and families in Cape Breton. As New Democrats on this side of the House of Commons, we will do whatever is physically possible to ensure that the legislation never ever sees the light of day.