Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-30 and I would like to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Kelowna.
As I listened to the budget speech the other day, I was very interested, coming from a rural riding, with the $1 billion that was pledged to agriculture. My agriculture constituents were very enthused
While the money for agriculture is appreciated, this has been a problem since last May. Why did it take almost a full year to take this kind of action? The border with the U.S. remains closed and this continues to be the most important issue that remains unresolved.
I have received numerous calls from area beef and dairy farmers expressing serious concern over the recent assistance package announced as part of the budget. In the strongest possible terms I want to express my disappointment in the new package.
While beef producers seem to have been compensated fairly, it appears as though dairy producers have been either forgotten or abandoned. The figure of $56 per dairy heifer is absolutely unsatisfactory.
As with previous programs, this plan is far too narrow in scope and does not offer to help numerous sectors of the agriculture industry suffering the effects of BSE. In effect, the new program, when considered in the context of the entire agriculture industry, is of little value and unfair.
If we take the cull cow program that was presented by the government last fall, there was about $200 million set aside for culled cows and the second line in the cull cow program said that farmers did not have to kill or cull the cow. I do not know how it was even a cull cow program. If the Liberals had listened to the Conservative Party, we planned to eliminate 700 cull cows with $500 for each cow.
On the EI premiums, where is the economic relief Canadians need? The government could have lowered EI premiums and made a very positive impact on the economy. This inaction represents a real opportunity missed.
Regarding the environment, though justifying the sale of Petro-Canada shares to invest in the environment, the reality is that the budget virtually ignores important environmental issues. The sale is expected to generate more than $3 billion and yet the government's announcements only amount to $1 billion.
There are no initiatives encouraging the clean up of the Great Lakes and no invasive species legislation. Smog control and clean air were also ignored.
This is the fifth time I have heard the government announce the $2 billion health care transfer to the provinces. While I am pleased to see the government honour the agreement reached in the 2003 health accord with the provinces, it is important to point out that announcing it five times does not increase the amount of money that gets placed into the system.
Some more money, yes, but the government continues to avoid seriously addressing the issues plaguing the health care system in Canada. Throwing money into the system is not the answer. We need to start taking a hard look at the system while always maintaining the principles outlined in the Canada Health Act.
I was surprised, that in a year during which Canada will be participating in the Olympics in Athens, there was effectively no mention in the budget of increased support for Canadian athletes. Investing money now to encourage Canadians to participate in sport would result in health benefits for Canadians and translate into overall lower health care costs down the road.
With Canada set to host the 2010 Winter Olympics, this would have been an ideal time to start a program encouraging Canadians toward healthier lifestyle choices. I will read certain passages from a letter that I received from the Canadian Olympic Committee. It states:
As we discussed during our meeting on February 19, 2004, we believe sport plays a significant role in the lives of Canadians.
The role that participation in sport plays in our personal development and well-being is widely acknowledged.
Sport is an important and growing feature in projecting our nation's image abroad and offers a demonstrable return on investment in terms of reduced health care costs from participation in physical activity and in the economic benefits of hosting sporting events in Canada.
The roles played by Sport Canada, national sport federations, provincial governments, the private sector and others is very important for the development of sport in Canada from fitness and leisure sport through to the development of world-class athletes bringing home medals from international and Olympic competitions.
Canada has been especially successful in playing host to many international sport competitions, including summer and winter Olympic Games. Again in 2010, Canada will have the honour of hosting the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver-Whistler and it is vital that our athletes be prepared.
We are pleased that the government has invested an additional $10 million in sport this year--
However, beyond the additional $10 million and sustaining the current funding level, the sport community has recommended an urgent need for at least $50 million in increased federal funding for sport--
During our recent round of meetings in Ottawa...we recommended that the government announce, as a first step in this initiative, an additional $8.5 million per year to be provided in the upcoming budget to Sport Canada to enable them to begin immediately providing an increase in direct financial support to Canadian athletes.
Finally, we would like to request that the government set aside reserve funding in the fiscal framework of the balance of the recommended funding, that is $41.5 million per year, pending completion of a review and report on this important initiative: namely to promote a more active and healthy population through fitness and athletic development and to foster excellence and improved international standing by Canadian athletes in high-performance sport.
We believe this is key in assisting to build Canada's preparedness for a solid showing in 2010--
The $7 billion GST relief to municipalities will trickle from Ottawa at a snail's pace over a decade. The Prime Minister has been talking for a long time about offering some of the gas tax to municipalities. There is no specific plan present in the March 23rd announcement.
All these programs, a few million here and a few million there, but what they do not mention is that they are spread out over a decade. Many people hearing these funding announcements will be dead by the time these programs pay out in full.
An issue that continues to be largely ignored by the government is the state of rural Canada; specifically its economy and its infrastructure. There was nothing in the budget to help rural community groups seeking funding assistance for projects such as recreational facilities and cultural centres.
Riding the coattails of the veterans, the Liberal government is promising to send money to build a monument at Juno Beach that the veterans have already built. This is the same government that ignored the veterans several years ago when the funds were desperately needed. The monument was almost not built, and now that it is, the government wants to step in at the last moment and take credit it does not deserve.
Essentially, this budget is a blueprint for underachievement. After the release of the budget the important question Canadians need to ask themselves remains the same, do they have confidence that the government can honestly and effectively manage their money?
The Liberal candidate in my riding recently boasted he was going to be coming after me in the next election. He is quoted as saying that I got lucky in the byelection, that my victory on May 12th was a protest vote against the Liberal government. Well, here is to being lucky. From what Canadians have seen, since the people of Perth—Middlesex sent me here, there is more reason now than ever for a protest vote.
When frustrated farmers from my riding call me now and ask me what they should do, I tell them that there is only one thing left that they can do, and that is to help the Conservative Party change the government in the next election.