Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Rimouski-Neigette-et-la Mitis.
Others before me have already said this, but the situation is so serious I feel I have to repeat it: the government is paralyzed. When we ask questions of ministers, they do not dare answer, for fear of displeasing the future prime minister, who will take over in the coming months.
The Liberals are not even taking their work seriously in committees, because they know that there could be a change of policy within weeks.
The fundamental question is this: is anyone at the controls? Yes, there is, but he is sitting back with the passengers, which is not very reassuring. That is pretty serious. Just as airline passengers would not be reassured by a pilot sitting with them, the public is not reassured by a government that is paralyzed, blocked day after day, because we are in a period of transition, a period when the future prime minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, has already decided to start pulling the government's strings.
There are two parallel governments. Things cannot work that way. We cannot have any budget policy, although this is being discussed within the budget consultation process in the Standing Committee on Finance. There is a total lack of interest. A policy is being set, but no one knows if it is the right one, because someone else will be taking over before long.
The member for LaSalle—Émard talks of slashing 10% from the departments in order to save money, while the present Prime Minister is telling us, “We will invest the amounts previously agreed to in health, education and social assistance”. The Minister of Finance, in a real bind as to what to say, tells us, “If we have the funds, maybe, and if we do not, maybe not”.
We have, moreover, just learned that the true surplus, as at March 31 last, was $7 billion. Nevertheless, the present finance minister does not dare speak up and make any commitments because, sad but true, the government no longer exists.
As a result, everyone is dependent on what is going on within the Liberal Party. I have just heard my colleague from Mississauga South ask the member for Roberval and House leader of the Bloc Quebecois if it is normal for one political party to interfere in the affairs of another.
Yes, it is normal. And why? Because it is not just an issue for the Liberal Party of Canada; it concerns every single citizen of this country. There is no government facing us that can give us an answer.
With regard to such basic issues as the Kyoto protocol, which was ratified by this Parliament, the government said it would be establishing measures to implement the various parts of the protocol. The government says, “Yes, we are moving forward”. But the other prime minister, the one hiding behind the curtain, who has all the benefits of being prime minister without coming in to take the risks of debating his ideas here in Parliament, says that he is questioning this policy and that he would prefer a made in Canada policy. But the Kyoto protocol, as we all know, is an international plan and an international commitment. We should be worried.
When even the current finance minister says, “Well, we really do not know very much about how to approach the prebudget consultations, and I cannot make a prebudget statement as I usually do each year, because I do not know what the future prime minister is thinking”, it can paralyze a government.
Normally, at this time of year, the bulk of the consultation has already been done. We know what is coming. We know what the government's priorities are. Today, we know nothing.
There were also commitments that seemed to have been made. Let us take for example the high speed train in the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. It seemed that the government was in favour of this. But now, the member for LaSalle—Émard says that no, the government no longer in favour of it. We do not know where the government stands any more, and that is a fact.
Earlier, I heard my colleague from Winnipeg—Transcona say that we want to put a man from the right in power ahead of time. I want to remind him that the man from the right is already running the government. He even making his presence felt on the international scene. It is not the current Prime Minister who was seen in Bangkok at the APEC summit. It is the future prime minister, who was seen on the front page of an international newspaper.
He is already shaping Canada's international policy. However, NDP members always make politics far too complicated. It would appear that they have difficulty remaining at the first or second level. It is always so complicated. In other words, they are difficult to follow.
We are anxious to see this man here in the House, and I am talking about the member for LaSalle—Émard, who, right now, has all the advantages of the office of prime minister and holds caucus meetings on Tuesday night when the regular caucus meetings are held on Wednesday morning. Members do not know what to do. They do not know whether they should attend the caucus meeting on Tuesday night or the one on Wednesday morning.
We would like him to be here, because he has a past. He has over a decade of political experience already. He has a track record. For nine years, he was the minister of Finance and, as such, he made decisions. He had better not try to tell us that he was not comfortable with the decisions he made. For nine years we questioned him, and he was quite comfortable. He even made fun of our questions.
He had better not try to tell us that he was not comfortable with the gutting of federal transfer payments for health, education and social assistance, and that it was not his decision. He was the Minister of Finance after all, and he is the one who set the course to get the federal public finances under control. He is the one who picked the targets to get our fiscal house in order. He targeted students, the sick and the poorest members of society.
He has to show up in this House without delay. Since memory has a way of fading, some may have forgotten the true face of the member for LaSalle—Émard and future prime minister. We are looking forward to seeing him here as soon as possible. That is the essence of the motion we put forward. Not only do we want a government that is accountable for its actions and statements, but we want the prime minister to come before us and answer our questions regarding the decisions he made in the past when he gutted social programs.
We want to see before us the man who essentially stole the $45 million surplus accumulated in the employment insurance fund. We want to see before us the man who, for the past 10 years, has steadfastly refused to terminate the tax convention with Barbados, because his own shipping company benefits from it. We want to see before us the man who refused to reform the federal tax system, which is unfair to middle and low income earners. We want to have him before us to question him and ask him why he did not do it.
We want to ask the member for LaSalle—Émard, the former finance minister, why it is that every time we ask a government representative a question and an answer is given, he then says the opposite outside the House? This morning, the government House leader ridiculed the Bloc Quebecois motion, saying that it was a non-confidence vote against the government.
Why? That was their only way out, but there is more to it than that. No one wants to admit that the majority of members and ministers from the governing party supports the member for LaSalle—Émard, while hypocritically, behind the scenes, they are working to push the current Prime Minister out to make room for the future prime minister as soon as possible.
The motion has been ridiculed and described as a non-confidence vote. It has been said that if the Liberal members or ministers vote in favour of it, the government will have to call an election because the government will have been defeated. Honestly. The Prime Minister himself announced a few months ago that he would step down in February 2004. Moving this deadline ahead three months is not a non-confidence motion, it is gently showing him the door to allow a real government to govern and a real prime minister to answer our questions, in order to prevent that prime minister from pulling the strings from behind the curtain and contradicting the current government. That is all we want.
Earlier I asked, “Is there anyone at the controls?” I would say yes there is. However, this pilot is not where he should be, he is not in the cockpit. He is seated here with the passengers and is doing nothing to reassure the passengers, the citizens of this country.
The current situation is serious. World leaders want to know who the future prime minister is rather than ask the current Prime Minister about Canada's position.
It is serious when even the social groups ask the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard directly and no longer the current Prime Minister to restore the funding they lost before the destroyer of social programs, the future prime minister, takes over.
It is serious when the financial world no longer pays any attention to the current Prime Minister or the current Minister of Finance, because most of the ministers here probably will not keep their jobs when the new prime minister takes over.
Furthermore, when the future prime minister, in the crucial context of planning the next budget, consults first those involved in Canadian and international high finance, second the bankers and third, industry, we have the right to ask, “What will be in the next budget”.
It will only include measures to benefit the rich, who are friends of the future prime minister.