Mr. Speaker, I must begin by saying how pleased I am to be able to speak to the House of Commons on the budget of the Minister of Finance. I would also like to say how distressing it is to see my colleague over there, who comes from the maritimes, boasting about five surplus budgets since 1993.
This is not the first time I have said such a thing in this House, but this surplus has been created at the expense of workers who have lost their jobs. The Liberals say in this House that the people of Nova Scotia are pleased and understand there has to be some belt tightening. This is unacceptable, and what is more, it is not the truth.
I remember what happened in the 1997 election, when almost all of Nova Scotia elected not one Liberal to the House of Commons. They were not pleased with the Liberal government's cuts. In 1993, before being elected, the Liberal leader, now Prime Minister, said that the Progressive Conservatives ought not to have made the cuts they did to employment insurance.
The hon. member opposite, from Nova Scotia, should stay in the House to hear my speech and listen to what I have to say. During the last election, the Prime Minister said himself that EI needed changes because he had lost support in the Atlantic provinces. So how can the member stand in the House today and tell us that the people of Nova Scotia are happy?
I am sure that what goes for Nova Scotia goes for New Brunswick. Most of the time, people work seasonal jobs. Maybe it is because the member lives in Halifax that he is defending this position. He should go to Cape Breton and see if the folks are happy. He should go to Cape Breton, to the Gaspé Peninsula and to where I come from, the Acadian Peninsula.
On September 11, tragic events took place in the United States. Everyone was shaken by this. However, there are tragedies taking place every day here in Canada because of the Liberal government's cuts. People are committing suicide. Instead of planes slamming into buildings, bullets are being fired into peoples' heads because they are unable to provide food for their family.
The Liberal government itself turned around and went and bought boats to solve the problem of the aboriginal fishery. That is one thing that I agree with. It provided shipmasters in the crab fishery $2.5 million. It gathered the fishers and those who worked on these boats, the deckmen, as they are known, and laid them off, forcing them onto welfare. That is what the Liberals did.
About 15 minutes before I was to give my speech, people from my riding called me to say that they were worried because they no longer qualified for EI.
The member from Nova Scotia has the nerve to rise in the House and say that the people of Nova Scotia are happy. It is disgraceful the way the Liberal government goes after workers who have lost their jobs and tells Canadians that they will have to tighten their belts. It is not Canadians who are tightening their belts, but the men and women who have lost their jobs. The Liberal government promised changes to the EI legislation.
During the 2000 election campaign, it promised amendments to Bill C-44 with Bill C-2. The Liberals said that we should pass the bill quickly because other changes were in the works. All parties in the House of Commons made recommendations to the House and to the minister. The Liberals, who were elected on the strength of their promises to make further changes to the EI legislation, made recommendations as well.
The member for Madawaska—Restigouche was elected on the strength of this promise. The member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, the son of the former Governor General of Canada, said that if he were elected, he would make changes to the EI rules. He has not made even the tiniest change since being elected, nor has he said a word about it.
It is not enough that they have gone after EI recipients. Now they are sending out forms. As the member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Halifax know, the government is now sending out forms to disabled individuals so that they no longer qualify for tax credits. Everything is done on the backs of the least fortunate.
Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention that I would be sharing my time with the member for Winnipeg North Centre. I did not wish to forget this, nor do I wish to speak for 20 minutes. I think that ten minutes will be all the Liberals can take.
The Liberals have the nerve to say that they are happy that there have been five budget surpluses, which were obtained at taxpayers' expense, not to mention the cuts imposed on the provinces. They could have said “We will use this budget to start taking care of the economy. We will help the disadvantaged, we will help small and medium size businesses. We will help people find jobs, we will put them to work”.
But no, they prefer to boast, as the Prime Minister did yesterday, about having a surplus, when people commit suicide, when families have no money, when there are no transfers to provinces. Social assistance benefits were not raised; no premier is willing to raise them to give money to the poor. Some 1.4 million children go hungry in Canada. Eight hundred thousand persons cannot get employment insurance benefits. Meanwhile, the Liberals are boasting. Shame on them.
Shame on those who come from the Atlantic provinces and praise the Liberal government. What the Liberals are doing today is shameful for Atlantic Canada, it is shameful for Canada. It is utterly shameful.
The issues that I mentioned are human realities. They are things that people are confronted with on a daily basis.
Last week, I met fishers to whom the government said “Buy boats, to the tune of $2.5 million, but we are not responsible for dockhands working on these boats. Get organized now. Contact the Department of Human Resources Development”. The fishers went to the Department of Human Resources Development and were told “This is no longer our responsibility. We have agreements with the province”. Then the province said “What do you want us to do with them? They have to do like the others and go on welfare”.
What a nice transfer. This is how the issue is solved. This is how they solve the dispute between the two peoples, the whites and the aboriginals. The Liberals truly did a great job there.
So I hope that, in their budgets and in their thoughts, they will begin to show greater sensitivity than they have done so far. They must stop boasting about having asked Canadians to tighten their belts. They did not ask Canadians to tighten their belts: they did it for them. They robbed the workers who lost their jobs. They even bragged about having surpluses. This is highway robbery. The biggest robbery in Canada's history was committed here in the House of Commons by the Liberals.
Some people leave their families behind to find work. They are forced to go out west. Children are crying, because they want their daddies back home. When they do go home after six months, the federal government sends inspectors and investigators who make them lose their employment insurance benefits. It is despicable for the Liberals to do this instead of doing what they said they would.
Prior to 1993, before they were elected, the Liberals were telling Brian Mulroney “That is not the way to solve economic problems. It is not done by picking on the little guy who has lost his job, it is done by boosting the economy and putting people to work”. That is where the Liberals did not meet their responsibilities when they did get elected. Today they are boasting “Yes, but we have won elections”. Still, they have a human responsibility. That responsibility is to get people working. When people do not have work, the Liberals have a responsibility to help them meet their needs, as they said they would while campaigning.
Thirty-five days before the election, they were prepared to give Canadians anything. The day after the election, they were prepared to take everything away from them, and they have continued to do so for three and a half years. It is shameful to see the suffering and discord they have caused for families. In my opinion, what is going on in Canada under the Liberal government is worse than the events of September 11. It is shameful. I could never repeat this enough.
The Minister of Finance knew there had been a recommendation from all parties. My colleague from Madawaska--Restigouche has been on the committee. So has the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development. They have all made recommendations, including the Liberals. They knew that a change was needed to help Canadians out.
Hopefully, my colleague opposite, who comes from Nova Scotia, will rework his speech and next time, will not praise the Liberals, who deserve no praise for making Canadians suffer.