Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on the budget today. Back at home, I attended banquets this weekend. I certainly heard an awful lot about the government, about the budget, and about what it is doing. People are disgusted. They said “Bob, you told us what Mr. Martin would be like. You compared him to John Turner and Kim Campbell, that he would be about the same, a huge disappointment”. It has borne true.
If we go back to his budget statement of 1995, the then finance minister said that the government had just introduced a new and much tighter system to manage its spending. If we go to his 1996 budget, he said that if there was one area where we must never let up, it was to root out waste and inefficiency. Then in 1998 he said that the battle to root out waste and inefficiency could never end.
The Prime Minister has totally failed in rooting out much of anything. Obviously, the whole responsibility issue is just not there. We have Mr. Gagliano saying that he did not know anything. We have the Prime Minister saying that he did not know anything and did not know what was happening. David Dingwall, the former public works minister, knew nothing. Mr. Chrétien of course is not responsible.
Is this about going after little guys? What about these big guys who are supposed to be responsible? People in my riding say that they should be responsible and fess up to exactly what they knew and when they knew it.
The chief of staff for the former finance minister, Terrie O'Leary, and the minister's legislative assistant, Karl Littler, said that in 1996 the finance minister knew there were problems in some of these departments and programs. The buck should stop there. That is where the responsibility is and this budget does nothing to address that.
Let us look at the other areas that it does not address. First of all, health care. Yes, the government is giving $2 billion, but does it have a vision? I suggest that it does not. It budgeted $665 million for the Canadian public health agency. To me, that says bureaucracy. We are going to have another whole bureaucratic organization. Will that help the waiting lists? Will that help our medical students who are underfunded? Will it help the infrastructure and the universities? Will it help to train specialists? Will it help in the emergency rooms? I say it will not.
The government again has failed Canadians in what Canadians see as the most important issue to them, and that is health care for themselves and their families.
What about education? The students at Red Deer College tell me that they are going deeper and deeper into debt. Tuition fees are rising. Infrastructure is decaying. Professors are getting older. We lose 22,000 graduate students a year in the brain drain.
As the House has heard many times, my own family has been forced to teach at universities outside the country. That is what is happening here. The budget does not address that.
It does not address the problems of those students who are trying to get their education. As the infrastructure collapses around them, the government has no interest in that, even though it claims that it does.
What about the debt? The NDP says that we should not deal with the debt, that it is not a problem. The reality is that we will be spending $12.7 billion in the next two years more than what we are spending now. How does that equate? Right now we spend $97.8 million a day on interest payments. That breaks down to $1,135.42 per second on interest payments for which we get no social programs, and for which we get absolutely nothing. The debt must be dealt with. This budget does little to do that.
On national defence, which is our pride, and the young men and women who are defending our country, what did we give them? Basically nothing. Do we as Canadians want them to do their job? Yes, we do.
We want them to be the very best and have the best equipment. We do not want them sent out there in the wrong coloured uniforms with 40 year old equipment. It is embarrassing. I have talked in the House about seeing them in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti, and seeing that old equipment that they are forced to use. In many cases it has even become life threatening.
Getting back to education, I checked out the promises that were made. In 1998-99 the government promised an extra $100 million in spending; it actually spent $73 million. In 1999 it promised $100 million and it spent $83 million. In one of the government's poorest years, it promised $120 million in 2001-02 and spent $67 million. This is not dedication to our troops or dedication to our students. Basically, the government has failed on all counts.
Let us go on and look at the tax situation. Why are we losing companies? Why are we losing many of our best trained people? Imagine people right now writing their cheques to Revenue Canada at a time when they see this place as a culture of corruption, where their dollars are being wasted by every department. Obviously, it is not very conducive to sending one's cheque to the government.
Agriculture received $1 billion. The farmers in my constituency are asking where the government has been for the last year and a half. It is too little, too late. They needed to have those borders opened. Instead of going and talking about the case in Washington, the Prime Minister has been touring the country from city to city on the taxpayers' dough, trying to build up his election profile. The farmers in my region certainly do not believe that the Prime Minister really cares about them very much.
Let us get to environment. I looked for a lot of things there as the senior environment critic. I did not see anything on invasive species. The Americans have three pieces of legislation; we have none. I did not see anything on smog control. I saw nothing on the international clean air treaty, nothing on the Great Lakes, and nothing on aquifer mapping. These are the issues that the people out there care about and this budget did not deal with them.
There is no vision. If we want a vision for the environment, it has to be long term. It has to go for 50 years if we really want to take care of our environment. We have an environment minister who runs around like chicken little saying the sky is falling, but there is nothing in this budget about that either. We have 8 out of 10 provinces now having serious doubts about the targets. I met with industry on Thursday and they said nothing is happening on the Kyoto file. Industry cannot achieve its 55 megatonnes targets and the government is just blowing smoke and has no plan.
Regarding the one tonne challenge, we have a beautiful brochure and we have some boy scouts changing light bulbs. It is a lot more serious than that to deal with climate change. I am saying we should deal with it, but I question the way the minister is doing it.
The battle goes on in their own caucus, where we have one minister saying that he is going to go after the automobile companies because they will not increase their fuel efficiency, and another minister saying, “No way, that is mine”. There is a turf war and nothing about the real environment.
The sale of Petro-Canada is a joke. We are going to get $3 billion and $1 billion will go to the whole environment package. We are only going to get $200 million now, and that $200 million is going to be at arm's length run by a Liberal friend. We were going to end all of that. And so it goes.
Yes, we should deal with contaminated sites, but we should prioritize them and come up with a plan.
Where is the support for alternate energy, transitional fuels, wind and solar power, and all of those things?
In conclusion, I am embarrassed by this budget. There is no vision, there is no enthusiasm, and there is no excitement. It is a tired old government, status quo. The public had such hope, but now that hope is gone because of the sponsorship scandal and all the other scandals.
The Prime Minister said he would help municipalities, the military, children, firemen, aboriginals, students and health care. He has done absolutely nothing. It is time for a change.