Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have another opportunity to speak as loudly and as clearly as possible against Bill C-28, the budget implementation act.
Let me begin by saying it has been about three months since the government brought down its budget. The initial flash of the cash has had some time to wear off and Canadians have had time to take a closer look at the significance of the budget in meeting the pressing needs of Canadians.
The closer scrutiny has not favoured the government. As the hoopla dies down, more and more Canadians have come to the same conclusion the New Democrats have, and that is the government has failed to invest adequately in Canadians and has failed to invest in building the society that we want and need for the future of this country and of our children.
The inadequacy of the budget becomes very clear when we compare what the government has budgeted with what Canadians actually need. When we look at what the government has done with the fraction of the surplus it has left, after its ongoing tax cuts and the billions it continues to spend on paying down the debt, we realize just what a low priority the social needs of Canadians are for the government.
The government could learn from the Alternative Federal Budget process. The AFB builds its budget from the ground up, developing a coherent fiscal strategy toward achieving the social goals of Canadians, and it does it all within a balanced budgetary framework. It does not fudge surplus estimates to accomplish hidden agendas. In fact it has been far more accurate than the government in estimating realistic economic performance and surpluses over the years.
In looking at the budget, every sector of our society has come to its own conclusions. Let me just take a look at the issues pertaining to the status of women as one example.
Shocking to us all, Canada has been recently criticized by the United Nations for not living up to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. What a scathing commentary on a country so wealthy and prosperous as Canada.
The UN has issued a report suggesting Canada has failed to move forward on a long list of measures to improve gender equality. One of the chief areas of concern was the disproportionate impact on women caused by the government's earlier cuts to social programs, cuts that happened under this government 10 years ago, under the member for LaSalle—Émard, and continued on by other members, including the present leadership candidates who are in the race today. The UN report calls on Canada to re-establish national standards in social programming.
The real test of Liberal commitment on this issue is not what the leadership candidates are saying but whether it is in this budget. Does the budget do this? Is the government's $25 million baby step toward a national child care program a sufficient response?
There are 4.9 million children in Canada under the age of 13. Three thousand child care spaces divided across the entire country will obviously leave hundreds of thousands of women without the support they need to work out of the home. Child care advocates have told the government time and again that even to begin building a national child care program about $10 billion will be needed during the first four years; $1 billion in this year alone.
This budget does not cut it. It does not advance the status of women and take us closer on the path toward true equality between the sexes.
The United Nations also has called for improvements to employment and employment insurance to make it easier for women to enter the workforce and stay there at better paying jobs.
What do we have? We have a government that makes it harder to benefit and keeps inflated premiums to the tune of $43 billion in a surplus. Did the government introduce changes to the EI system to help low wage part time working women access that huge surplus by expanding those covered or by bringing in programs to improve their skills and marketability? No. Not only has it not taken those initiatives, but it is still, as we speak, using public money to finance court battles to keep working women, like Kelly Lesiuk in Winnipeg, from getting the EI support they deserve. I am sure that impresses the world community.
The recent census information released earlier this month by Statistics Canada confirms absolutely that we have to do more. After a decade predominant with the Liberal government at the controls, single parent families, headed mostly by women, continue to lag more than 50% behind the national income average.
Violence against women is a very important area if we are to really deal with the status of women agenda and pursue women's equality. It is an area with a devastating impact on the lives of Canadian women and another area where the United Nations has called for action. Yet despite its acknowledgement of the ongoing violence against women, and tragically evidenced again last week in Mission, B.C., it is not a priority in this budget. For example, more second stage housing is urgently needed to help women re-establish themselves after escaping intolerable, violent or abusive situations. Apparently it is not a priority for the government.
There are so many other areas to address in this budget. I know my colleague, the member for Winnipeg Centre who has led a heroic battle at committee dealing with Bill C-7's aboriginal self government legislation, will have lots to say about how the government and how the budget fails first nations communities, how it has failed to address third world conditions on reserves and how the money in this budget is a drop in the bucket when it comes to that shameful aspect of Canadian history and society.
There is a gap in this budget when it comes to the rich and the poor, when it comes to first nations communities and other Canadians and when it comes to men and women. There is a gap when it comes to a government providing adequate housing, health care, education and child care. There is a clear gap especially in the area of health care, an area that has been an issue before the House time and time again. One would have thought that this budget would have closed the gap, would have avoided what we now know to be the Romanow gap, a shortfall of some $5 billion in terms of meeting the basic requirements of sustaining a health care system for the future.
We had thought we would get some clearer answers about what the share of the federal government is with respect to transfer payments to provinces for health care. We had thought, in the final stages of the budget process, we would get some answers but still we cannot get a straight answer out of the government on health funding; old money, new money, cash and tax points. This is exactly the situation that the Romanow Commission foresaw and tried to avoid.
We have a lot more to say about this budget and why we oppose it. Health care is one of those critical areas where the budget falls far short of what is required. The government's patchwork approach, whether in health, housing, community infrastructure, the environment, may serve the Liberals' short term political interests but it is ineffectual in providing the social investments Canadians need so critically.
Throughout our examination of Bill C-28, New Democrats have presented constructive alternatives and tried to focus the government on investing in Canadians. We have failed to this point. The government has turned away from us, from Canadians needing housing, women needing better employment support and an end to violence, children still mired in poverty, first nations living in third world conditions, those trying to ensure our very survival on this planet, and the list goes on. It leaves us no alternative but to vote against this budget and this bill.