My Tory friend from Newfoundland said “we are”. In comparison to the Liberals, they certainly are.
We had massive cutbacks in 1995. The Liberals were pushed, prodded and poked by the Reform Party which was basically anti-government and anti-public program in terms of creating any kind of equality of condition. The former Reform Party and now the Alliance Party stood for that and the government has picked up its agenda.
It is time to turn the corner. We must now attack the human deficit, the people deficit, in terms of more social spending and more equality in our taxation system, and we have the capability to do that.
Some Alliance people would lead us to believe that equalization means that the taxes of Alberta go directly to the people of Newfoundland. That is anything but the truth. The equalization payment comes from the consolidated revenue fund of taxes collected across the board by the federal government and then given out to the poorer provinces to create equality of condition. The Alliance objects to this by trying to heckle us on the idea of equality, justice and fairness. It wants a system where the rich get richer and the powerful get more powerful.
The Alliance wants a flat tax, an idea that has been rejected by the Bush republicans in the United States. Those are the kinds of ideas that cater to the wealthy, the rich and the privileged. No wonder the Alliance Party is in trouble with Canadians from one part of Canada to the other.
These archaic ideas from the time of Fred Flintstone have no place in the modern world. Canadians want equality and they want justice. Alliance members should crawl back into their caves. Their ideas are outdated.
It is time in the debate to tell the government across the way not to be spooked by those sitting across from it, to do the right thing, and to do what the provincial ministers of finance have said, including the ministers of finance from Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. They have all said to increase equalization. They have all said to get rid of the cap, or re-base the cap from $10 billion to $10.8 billion.
The Prime Minister of Canada said that before the election campaign. The four Atlantic provinces have come here asking for it, as well as Manitoba and Saskatchewan. If we do not do it we will have greater inequalities, greater inequities between the regions and more people living in poverty and lining up at food banks.
It seems to me that if we do what we should do as a parliament, we must make sure we have equality of condition for the common good, so that a child in the north, the prairies, Alberta, Newfoundland or Quebec has exactly the same opportunity as a child anywhere else in the country.
I would once again like to plead with the parliamentary secretary across the way to speak with his government and to come back before the House with a ways and means motion to amend the equalization bill before us, or at least, in the financial statement coming down in two weeks where there will be a budgetary surplus of $15 billion to $17 billion, to make sure that as part of that financial statement there will be an increase in equalization payments in order to treat every single Canadian with fairness and justice regardless of where she or he may happen to live.