Mr. Speaker, as always, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate today regarding Bill C-49, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled on December 10, 2001.
This wide ranging legislation includes measures to legislate in the following areas. It implements the Canadian air transport security authority which will deliver improved security at airports and on board flights. It implements the $24 round trip domestic air travellers security charge announced in the budget, which of course is discriminatory, toward short haul airlines and flyers two to three times higher than charged in the United States.
The act also amends the Employment Insurance Act and its regulations. These amendments provide increased flexibility to parents whose newborns are hospitalized for an extended period of time and clarify employment protection. There are no new benefits per se provided for in the bill. This issue addressed in these amendments affect approximately 7,000 women and 2,000 children, while the total cost of implementing these changes is estimated to be about $20 million to $25 million for next year.
The act also implements the income tax amendments. The purpose of the amendments is to push revenues into the following fiscal year when a budget deficit is more likely. The most visible amendment is the provision to defer certain income tax instalments for January, February and March for six months. This measure is accounting trickery and really has only marginal benefits for business, perhaps $50 million in total.
However that is not new.The government has been seriously criticized by the auditor general in the past for disregarding the generally accepted accounting principles to balance the books. It has front loaded and back loaded the expenses and revenues respectively to make it convenient for the government to balance the budget. For instance, the Canadian Foundation for Innovation was not even in existence but the funds for operations were included in the budget.
The act also provides for the new $500 million Africa fund to reduce poverty, provide primary education and set Africa on a sustainable path for a brighter future. This fund is without clear direction or a mandate nor does it have a control mechanism in place. Rather than logically putting it with CIDA, a government official was quoted as saying that the Prime Minister will make that decision.
Moreover, the act was also supposed to implement the $2 million strategic infrastructure fund which was intended to provide assistance to large infrastructure projects in co-operation with municipal and provincial governments, as well as the private sector. The government has flip-flopped on this particular issue. This fund will be under the control of politicians rather than under an arm's length board of directors. There is no policy statement or basis for approval of these funds. Thus it is the de facto Liberal leadership strategic slush fund. It will be distributed on a project by project basis.
The government's vision or, for that matter lack of vision, is supposed to be reflected through the Speech from the Throne. Any budgets, in turn, are supposed to fulfill the vision laid out in the government's throne speech. As is evident, the budget completely fails to do this. This is probably because the government has no clear vision to begin with.
The throne speech is supposed to be a statement of how the government plans to act and where it plans to commit taxpayer resources. Under this government the throne speech has become nothing more than an empty public relations exercise devoid of any true meaning.
I would like to look at some of the important differences between what the government said it would do in the throne speech versus what it actually did in the budget.
In the throne speech the government said it would focus on: creating opportunity by fostering an innovative economy; taking steps to make Canada one of the most innovative countries in the world; enhancing the skills and learning of our country, in part, by recognizing foreign credentials; strengthening our country's information infrastructure by expanding broadband access to remote areas; and fostering trade and investment by investing in areas such as skills, learning, connectivity and lower corporate tax levels.
Members will note that the throne speech ensured Canadians that every effort would be made to work co-operatively with the U.S. to ensure fair and open market access. Nothing has happened with the softwood lumber dispute. My province of British Columbia is suffering because of that.
The throne speech said the government would: help families by creating jobs and a stronger economy, especially for our native population; ensure health and quality of care for all Canadians by upholding the principles of the Canada Health Act; and work toward environmental preservation, including clean air, water and conservation of our national spaces. It stated that it would “safeguard Canadians from toxic substances and environmental contaminants”. I wish to mention that 8,600 tonnes of toxic waste will be coming to Richmond, British Columbia from the United States of America. I do not see how the government is creating a safe environment.
The throne speech also said that the government would: co-ordinate government programs and policies to support Canadian communities; ensure a vibrant Canadian culture and celebrate Canadian citizenship; and protect Canadians by fostering a more peaceful international climate.
From what I have seen in the budget and Bill C-49 the government has fallen short in every one of these areas. This means that it has failed Canadians by not implementing the priorities it outlined in its own throne speech.
Some people say the Liberals campaign from the left and govern from the right. However, I think they would say anything during the campaign to get votes and once in power would do only those things which fulfill their own agenda. We know about its promise to remove, eliminate, scrap and abolish the GST, but the GST is still here.
The Liberals said they would create opportunities for Canadians. Instead, we are falling behind in many areas such as: job creation, lowering taxes, paying the national debt, improving health care, improving the economy, and improving transportation and infrastructure. As far as job creation is concerned, although the figures indicate that the job creation figures for January are a little better, the situation in my own province of British Columbia it is still very bad.
Our standard of living and productivity continue to fall relative to that of the United States. This is made worse by the government's low dollar policy. The Liberals failed to significantly improve our economic competitiveness.
The Speech from the Throne and, consequently, the budget speech, fail to set the priorities right. It is the culture of the weak and arrogant Liberal government that needs to be changed. Wastage, mismanagement, patronage, corruption, cover-up, secrecy and favouritism are the benchmarks of the Liberal government. It plays politics with the important priorities of Canadians including the national sex offender registry, child pornography and victims' rights.
Over the last 10 years, the official opposition has come up with grassroots policies by listening to Canadians. These grassroots policies would set the right priorities for the federal government. The government criticizes us for our policies and tries to shut us up. In the end, it steals our policies.
There cannot be a band-aid solution to the national problems of governance, mismanagement, corruption and prioritizing the issues of national importance.
The official opposition has played a significant role in changing or improving the national agenda for the country. We have been carrying the flashlight and showing the dark side of the Liberals. We have been exposing their weaknesses and blind spots which they have left unattended. They have seen some light and stolen some of our policies. I wish they had stolen more policies. By stealing our policies they have managed to form three consecutive majority governments. Still they could not set the priorities right and improve the culture of the government to manage the issues that I have just listed.