This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #31 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was year.

Topics

The House resumed from February 5 consideration of the motion that Bill C-439, an act to establish the office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice and the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency and to amend the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to Bill C-439, which establishes the office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice and the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency.

This bill is based on a good intention, we agree: the protection of older adults. Furthermore, the Criminal Code amendments in pages 21 and 22 of the bill are interesting, and some of them deserve to be taken up by another bill. I say another bill because, in addition to these amendments to the Criminal Code, Bill C-439 contains provisions that we find thoroughly unacceptable.

Some provisions are not within federal jurisdiction; others would duplicate structures that already exist in Quebec. Yet others, if adopted, would cause widespread confusion rather than help older adults. That is why, although we appreciate the concern expressed by the hon. member for Sudbury for the welfare of the elderly, we cannot support her bill.

If I understand it clearly, the bill provides for the creation of an office of the Ombudsman for Older Adult Justice, a kind of youth protection agency for seniors. The ombudsman would be responsible for supervising the work of curators. There are curators in Quebec. This ombudsman would thus have the right and power to carry out research on successful guardianship practices and systems. That already exists in Quebec.

The ombudsman would also be responsible for supervising institutions in the provincial health networks, since the bill gives him or her the power to develop and recommend guidelines to assist institutional review boards.

Imagine the confusion, for instance, at Saint-Charles-Borromé hospital—a case we have heard about—if we suddenly found ourselves with two parallel inquiries resulting from two sets of recommendations.

The bill also provides for the establishment of the Canadian Older Adult Justice Agency, an institution quite similar, in fact almost identical, to the Conseil des aînés in Quebec. It is already responsible for advising the minister on planning, implementing and coordinating governmental policies, and programs and services to meet the needs of seniors, and for proposing to the minister the implementation of programs and services to meet the needs of seniors and to prevent and correct the situations in which seniors can become victims of abuse.

The Conseil des aînés is already responsible for producing and distributing documentation and information programs about seniors and the services and benefits available to them, and promoting creation and distribution through third parties.

There is also the issue of information distribution. In Quebec, we have CLSCs, a type of institution which is unique in Canada. They already do good work in providing home support services to the sick. The CLSCs already do a great deal of promotion, prevention and distribution. To a degree, in fact a large degree, supporting Bill C-439 would ignore the excellent work the CLSCs are already doing in Quebec.

I would like to draw the attention of my colleagues and hon. members of this House to the following definition, in the bill, of the term abuse:

The knowing infliction of physical, psychological or financial harm—

This leads me to think that either there is no awareness or the member did not see the expression “financial harm” or else she was not thinking.

For example, the guaranteed income supplement scandal was and still is inflicting serious financial harm on seniors.

I wonder, then, if we could not infer that the government is guilty. Under this legislation to establish the office of the ombudsman for older adult justice that the member wants passed, would not the Government of Canada be accountable, since this program was knowingly hidden from seniors entitled to the guaranteed income supplement?

Obviously, the government failed to provide information to ensure seniors could access the guaranteed income supplement. Obviously, this government did not take measures to locate these seniors, even if it meant going door to door or using the CLSCs and seniors' centres to find them. In looking at what happened, I think that such legislation will do nothing to help seniors.

I want to remind the House that 270,000 Canadians, including 68,000 Quebeckers, were deprived of the guaranteed income supplement. My colleague, the member for Champagne, did an excellent job with regard to the awareness campaign we initiated to find all those adversely affected by the failure, voluntary in my opinion, of this government to provide the guaranteed income supplement.

Finally, people told us that they did not need legislation to protect them but that they did need information and our help in accessing these funds. We need social justice. I do not think that Quebec truly needs this legislation to establish an office at the ombudsman for older persons.

In Quebec, we found that the financial rights of these people had been adversely affected. Quebeckers realized this. Some CLSCs focus on prevention and protection. There is also the office of the public curator in Quebec. So, Quebec does not need this legislation.

Although this bill is filled with good intentions, it is not acceptable to us, and we will be voting against it.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words to a bill that recognizes the fundamental fact that older adults are often vulnerable to exploitation, abuse and neglect. In each case, if it is just once it is too often.

With Canada's growing population and the growing percentage of older people, it is a good thing a bill such as this is before the House. I want to question some things in the bill but, in general, if it wakes up the public to the vulnerability of older people, our seniors, it is a good bill.

The principles of the bill include the prevention and treatment of the problems out there, and I know there are problems. Having looked after my own parents and members of my wife's family, I am very well aware of the problems. I am not talking about my age. I am talking about their age. I want to point out that we have to be very vigilant that older people are not being mistreated or are vulnerable to exploitation.

The bill also includes in sentencing the vulnerability of the adult victim as an aggravating circumstance under the Criminal Code. I like that very much. We often sidestep this issue mainly because people are older and they are not about to complain as much.

The principles in the bill are generally sound and generally worthy of support. We on this side, and particularly my colleague, the member for Wild Rose, have been very vociferous about the protection of children under the law.

We have the opposite ends of the spectrum here. How quickly we become worked up and emotional when children become victimized. We should also be worked up and caring under the law when it is the other end of the spectrum, the seniors.

I have one concern about this, and I would like to look at it more. Would the new agency, which the bill would establish, mean another government bureaucracy? Would infringe on provincial rights as they now are? However, the overall objective of the bill is certainly worth supporting.

Not too long ago, I think it was on CTV, we saw the treatment of our seniors in some of our homes. It was a terrible account to witness. That kind of treatment should have never have taken place. On the other hand, I have to admit that members in my family have been placed in institutions like that, and I have nothing but admiration for the care they have received. It goes to the opposite end of the spectrum.

I have been watching elections since 1948 and one of the worst cases of exploitations has been political. While no money is involved, I know it has happened. Even in recent elections an ordinary paper was pushed under the doors of senior saying that if they voted a certain way, their rent would go up or if they voted a certain way, they could lose a portion of their old age pension. There is no way of knowing who put that paper there.

That is pure political exploitation, and it comes under the Elections Act. Yet I have never seen or heard of anyone being charged. It is a terrible thing to go visit these people and have them show me what they received under their door. That should be punishable as a huge crime.

What about the ads on television? They are bordering on the vulnerability of older people. The one ad I see more often than any is the one on home real estate. That one I question because I do not think it is really necessary.

The other issue is the soft, sweet-talking charities that phone. We all have them call, and seniors are most vulnerable to it, particularly when it deals with children. We should take a look at the bill. Should charities be phoning people of this age, in particular when they are living by themselves with no help?

I do not object to charities because I think most of us in the House agree they need to be supplied with financial assistance. The question then becomes, how will we approach this? How will we set this up? What new agency will be there? Do we really need a new agency or do we need to work with the province to establish more federal support? I do not know the answer to that, but I do know this. The feeling we have in our hearts about people who have abused children should be taken with the same context as those who would deliberately abuse the vulnerability of age. There is no difference in my thinking, none whatsoever.

As I said, I have seen a great deal of this in my time. I have seen it even within families. It is the responsibility of every Canadian to be cognizant that this abuse occurs. If nothing else, if the bill were to alert Canadians from coast to coast to coast that older people, particularly those living alone, are the most vulnerable, then the bill in itself would be worthwhile. Each of us should take it upon ourselves to talk to these people about how they are approached and how they have too often become victims financially. That ought not to happen.

We on this side of the House like what we see in this bill. We like what we have proposed and hammered away about the protection of children, as they are vulnerable. We like how the bill addresses the issues of exploitation, abuse and neglect of our seniors, particularly when it comes to groups of people organizing to prey upon seniors. That happens in our larger cities.

In conclusion, we will support the bill, but we want to look further at what is the best way to move it forward and what is the best way to alert Canadians of this. Perhaps we could put a good ad on television. Most seniors are great television watchers. We could hit them at the right time, not too late in the evening. It would be great to come forward with this.

My colleagues on this side of the House will indeed support the bill.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to add a few very brief words. There was an incident in Edmonton not very many years ago in which someone broke into a senior's home, brutally attacked a senior woman, and actually left her for dead. I do not know how we can pass a law that could prevent this, but certainly if the person who did such a heinous crime is found, he--or she if that is the case--should be subject to the highest impact of the law.

We need to protect our seniors. In my one and a half minute intervention here I would just like to say that all the members in the House should support this bill and make sure that this private member's bill is enacted. I support it highly.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Canadian Alliance Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to make a brief intervention here to say that in my own community we have had headlines just this week about sentencing in a case that involved a young man abusing a senior with disabilities for sexual purposes. Frankly, the community is very outraged by this incident.

I think that making the abuse of seniors or targeting the vulnerable in the seniors' community an aggravated offence is something that will certainly receive broad support on this side of the House. It is a measure that needs to be considered so that courts take these events seriously and make sure that the offenders are adequately dealt with in a way that sends a message to the community that this is not acceptable and will not be tolerated.

I applaud the member for bringing forth this private member's bill and I encourage all members to stand with her and see it go to committee.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the members who have offered to support the bill and to ask those who have not to seriously give thought to the idea of supporting the bill so it can go to committee.

I have no doubt that the bill is not perfect in its present form, but I feel very strongly about the case of older adults and especially vulnerable people in our society. I think that if the bill goes to committee at that point we can adapt the bill to better suit what the members of the House of Commons would like to see in an older adult justice bill. I know that some of the members across the way do not support it, as well as some on this side.

I understand why members from Quebec feel that it may not be necessary to have such a bill. I must say that, in Quebec, there are very good programs in place and they work well. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case in all the provinces. We must ensure that there is a means to look after those seniors who are vulnerable. Of course, we must be very careful with jurisdictions.

In my life as a politician, I have often noticed that we have to think beyond what we normally do. Indeed, when we focus too much on issues of jurisdiction, there are often very vulnerable people who are left aside. I know there are problems with the bill and I am fully prepared to amend it to ensure that it is appropriate and that the House can unanimously support it.

There are some things in the bill which I understand are difficult. The House will understand that I am not a lawyer or a jurist, but I did work very hard in trying to put together a piece of legislation which I am prepared to see change in light of the real necessity to have an older adult justice act.

There are parts of this bill that are especially important. I do believe we should consider seriously the establishing of an ombudsman responsible for the protection of older adults at the national level, and the creating of the Canadian older adult justice agency, if necessary, to coordinate older adult justice policies and issues across the country.

Most significantly, I would like to see us amend the Criminal Code in two ways: by expanding the category of victims to include an offender's mother and father or any person that is under the care of an offender as well as by making it a criminal offence to knowingly target an older adult for criminal purposes.

I wish to thank all members. I do believe that we need to do much more than we have done in the past in dealing with those people who have helped build this country and have made it the great country it is. It is now our turn to ensure that those who are vulnerable are looked after properly.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 31, immediately prior to the time provided for private members' business.

Older Adult Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

Having completed private members' business at the moment, I will suspend the sitting of the House until 12 o'clock when we will resume with government orders.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:32 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

The House resumed from March 25, consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, and of the amendment.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

March 29th, 2004 / noon

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the 2004 budget. I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Red Deer.

More than three years ago I stood in the House and delivered my maiden speech which was a response to the Speech from the Throne. During that speech I promised the constituents of Crowfoot to respectfully and truthfully represent their views and concerns here in the House of Commons, a place that some realize is far removed from rural Alberta. I pledged to work hard with the same diligence and honesty that people in Crowfoot demonstrate daily as they go about their various activities and business, especially during this difficult time in this predominantly rural riding. The budget provides little to no relief for cattle ranchers and cattle producers and the farmers who have been hit so hard by successive, unprecedented droughts. I have done my best to uphold that promise to the constituents of Crowfoot and I sincerely hope they would agree.

Unfortunately, Liberal members cannot, given their government's track record and the recent budget, claim the same.

In regard to the 2004 budget, it was, as the National Post headlines screamed, “a farewell to tax cuts”. Another headline read “In the spirit of prudent management of public money, we are not getting any”.

The finance minister tried in the budget to convince Canadians that the Liberals can be trusted to manage their money. The budget promises that they will try harder the next time, that they failed last time and the time before that, but that they will try harder next time. I would suggest, given the government's past record, the finance minister was not very convincing. I hope Canadians will remember and will let the government know in the next election that they did not buy the malarkey that the Liberal government was trying to sell.

Many millions of dollars have wrongfully been diverted or funnelled into the hands of Liberal friends. The government's track record speaks for itself. For the finance minister to think that he can stand in this place and convince voters otherwise is an insult to Canadians' intelligence.

The Auditor General's shocking revelation regarding the sponsorship program was a sorry indictment of the government's control of the public purse. The National Post characterized the Auditor General's findings as:

This is the mother of all Canadian political scandals. Yesterday's Auditor-General's report revealed a situation in Ottawa so serious, so shocking as to be without precedent in our country's history. Previous scandals--and we've had lots of them--pale by comparison.

I could stand here today reading headline after headline chastizing the government but, quite obviously, we would be here forever.

Basically, the Auditor General concluded that the sponsorship program broke every rule in the book. Millions of dollars were funnelled from crown corporations and other crown agencies through ad firms that collected lucrative commissions, in many cases for doing nothing other than forwarding the cheques. Notably, but not surprisingly, these ad agencies were all firms with strong ties to the Liberal Party of Canada.

The Prime Minister has unsuccessfully attempted to deflect criticism and refuses to accept any of the blame for this scandalous affair but the reality is that the buck must stop with him. As finance minister, he signed the cheques and red stamped the $250 million of taxpayer dollars for the sponsorship program. If the former finance minister knew that taxpayer dollars were wrongfully used and if he refused to do anything about it, that makes him complicit with those types of actions. If, however, he knew nothing, as he claims, then in some ways it is even more worrisome. It shows a level of incompetence in that department and in the Prime Minister.

The Prime Minister naively believes that his announcement of a public inquiry will placate the opposition and other critics. We are not that naive. Canadians are not that naive. They know that this is nothing but a futile attempt to sweep this scandal under the carpet until after the widely anticipated spring federal election.

The Prime Minister has attempted to do the same thing with a number of other files. He has attempted to do the same thing with the Maher Arar case. The commission of inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Maher Arar and his deportation and detention in Syria will certainly not be completed by the time voters are called to the polls.

Whether the election is called in weeks, months or even a year from now, Canadians will not forget the scandal and they will not forget this weak-kneed budget that tries to prepare Canadians for an election call.

Canadians will not forget the many broken promises given by the government. They will not forget the budget of 2004 which purports to eliminate the $40 million national unity fund, or secret slush fund for Liberal members of Parliament. The national unity reserve, dubbed the “honey pot” by one government official, was only exposed last week in the finance minister's budget speech.

Although the Prime Minister is defending the fund as normal government practice, the Auditor General in her remarks seems to be unaware of its existence. Both the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health have said:

...it is being axed because it does not meet the new government's standard of transparency, financial management or its new approach to national unity.

Ms. Fraser said:

I was aware of the government's national unity strategy but I am not sure what they are referring to when they talk about this particular reserve,"

Although I know the Auditor General has been extremely busy with an unprecedented workload as of late with the government, I would strongly suggest that the Auditor General audit this fund. I think Canadians deserve to know what specific programs or events this fund has been used for.

Tomorrow the Auditor General will release another report. This report reviews the efficiency of spending of $7.7 billion on national security.

In a pre-emptive strike against the Auditor General's report, last week the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness announced that she was creating a secure government-wide communications system.

The minister's speech last week to the Canadian Club in Ottawa, according to news reports, was arranged by one of her own officials who had been looking for a venue for the minister to give a speech on national security and government initiatives. This was a perfect illustration of an arsonist returning to try to put out a major fire.

In a 1996 review of the national security information systems and cooperation between agencies, the Auditor General discovered “a pattern of inadequate information to support front-line officials responsible for national security”. The Auditor General found that there was a lack of coordination and communication between the 17 federal departments and agencies with national security responsibilities.

The government has had eight years to make a difference. Given September 11, there was a lot of justification to address the deficiencies that the auditors general in years gone by have come forward with, and yet it has done precious little.

The government has offered no solutions until now. Less than a week before the Auditor General brings out her new report and the minister finds herself scrambling to do damage control and trying to put out what she knows will be a fire.

Once again the Liberal government is trying to scam Canadians but I am glad to report that Canadians are not buying it.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to question the hon. member on a couple of statements he made in his speech. I know he is trying to be fair, honest and forthright in his comments and he is not being too political about his stance, and I say that with tongue in cheek of course.

In his speech the member repeated a factual myth. I am sure he was not trying to mislead Canadians but he very clearly said that as finance minister the current Prime Minister signed all the cheques. He knows that ministers in government do not sign cheques. He knows that hardly any public servant out there signs cheques. Perhaps he could correct that on the record for us.

Also, in quoting a publication the member indicated that there were no tax cuts or the end of tax cuts. Would he acknowledge the fact that this coming fiscal year we are entering into either the fourth or the fifth year of five years in sequence of tax cuts yielding the largest tax cut in Canadian history? He did not mention that.

I hope, just to set the record straight, that he could perhaps clarify that. Are we not entering the fifth year of tax cuts, the largest in Canadian history? Will he please acknowledge that the finance minister does not sign the cheques to which he referred?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, we need to change the system. We do not simply need a change of face of who sits behind the Prime Minister's chair. We need a change in the system.

I think all Canadians were greatly troubled last week when they heard Mr. Alfonso Gagliano at the committee saying that he was not in control of his department and that he did not know what was happening in his department.

One of the promises the Liberals made in their 1993 red book was that there would be more ministerial accountability. We have seen less and less accountability in the government than we have ever seen before.

How many ministers have ever been fired because of misconduct? We have seen misconduct. We have seen them being shuffled out of one role or another role and switched departments. Ministerial accountability has seen sorely lacking in the government.

The hon. member asks whether the Prime Minister really signed those cheques. He was the minister of finance. He was the minister who knew where the dollars would have to be spent for departments. We had the supplementary estimates and budgets were proposed. There were $250 million marked for the sponsorship program. Did the finance minister not know that $100 million was being sent off to ad agencies, many of which did precious little?

The bucks stops here. I will read from the National Post today:

The business leaders polled were looking for more from [the Prime Minister]. In the past, they could always blame [former Prime Minister] Jean Chrétien for any budgetary limitations. This time it all falls on [the Prime Minister].

The article goes on and talks about the scandal:

“...they also recognize that he was a big part of the government that is at the centre of the scandal”, Mr. Winn said.

They went on to talk about what was happening in this budget.

I do not buy into that. I agree with him. Certainly anyone who has been in business knows that not every CEO signs every little departmental cheque but they are still responsible for the spending of the money.

The finance minister, the current Prime Minister, has failed the Canadian taxpayers and, I believe, he has failed Parliament.

When the government has ministers who stand in the House and say that they do not know what is happening in their departments, it is time we moved this group out and prepared for a new party to take over. The government has no control on what is going on in the country.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

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.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, one of the items in the budget is the income tax exemption for our armed forces personnel who serve in a theatre of conflict. Right now, it is confusing to our men and women in the military, including their civilian counterparts, of who exactly would receive this so-called benefit. France, Holland, England, and the United States have already extended this benefit to their armed forces personnel, but I am not quite sure who in those various countries qualifies.

We in the NDP are of the mind that all armed forces personnel and their civilian counterparts who serve in a theatre of conflict, for example the Arabian Gulf, Bosnia, Haiti, or Afghanistan, should be entitled to the same benefits as everyone else.

Would the hon. member from the Conservative Party agree with us that this is the way the government should be going with this particular item in the budget?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is pretty obvious what has happened here. We have created more conflict within the military. We should be sending a message to these men and women that we care about them and want them to do their jobs as best they can. We should be telling them that they are our ambassadors to the world. What we are in effect doing by singling out one group over another group is simply creating conflict.

I agree with the member that we should be taking care of them. Let us show some commitment and some vision. Let us ask Canadians what they want our military to do so they can do it the best they can. Let us finance them the best that we can. Let us give them the best equipment. Let us take care of their tax situation as an incentive.

I have been with our troops in both Haiti and Bosnia. I have been with them in many of these conflict situations. It is a tough job. They are doing a wonderful job as they build schools and hospitals and so on. We need to reward them for doing that. I do agree with the member.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Canadian Alliance Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, last week a program was announced that would put some money into the cattle herds in western Canada, but it fell far short of what is required.

A person with 200 head of cattle who kept back 20 replacement heifers was paid $56 for that exercise, and ended up getting $1,120. I told the Chambers of Commerce where I live that no money was flowing down the street from this government. The announcement that was made was slightly less than what farmers anticipated. As far as the individual cattle producer was concerned, he got little, if anything. I would like my colleague to comment on this situation.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, a crisis occurred over a year ago and people in my constituency were affected as much or more than anyone else. Young farmers were trying to make a go of it, and they needed to know that a plan was in place. They needed encouragement. They did not need to hear bad mouthing of the Americans. They did not need to hear all of the stuff that went on in this place. They needed a plan so they could get their lives in order.

It is too late now. Many of the cow-calf operators sold their calves in November because the price was a little higher. They are not going to get anything. Many people have cows and bulls that are old and would normally have been replaced. They are not getting anything. Much of the money already budgeted never went out to farmers. Some did go out to some people, but much of it did not.

There is not much hope out in cattle country. Our only hope is our premier who has been to Washington and has talked to the Americans about opening the border in May. If that happens, Shirley McCLellan, the Alberta agriculture minister, will deserve a lot of credit along with the premier.