Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the 2004 budget, a same as usual, nothing new, let us spend more money, let us not worry, let us all be happy type of budget. It is filled with many good things, many good promises, much the same as budgets have been filled with in the past since 1993.
I have seen several budgets now and they are all promises, promises, promises. In a big percentage of cases we are still back to square one. Many of the same things are being professed and many of the same things are being talked about.
I remember in 1993 we talked about the poverty in this country. The 1993 budget was going to address the fact that one million children were living in poverty in this country and that was a shame. We all agreed there was no doubt it was a problem that had to be addressed. Now in the year 2004 we are not addressing the problem regarding one million children living in poverty; it is now 1.5 million children living in poverty. That is some progress. We started with one million in 1993, and now we are up to 1.5 million. We still get the same kind of rhetoric and the same kind of messages in the budget that this is all going to be addressed and taken care of.
There was quite a bit of hype going on in the announcement just the other day regarding new helicopters and new equipment. That is great news for the people in the defence department. We all want to hear these things, but what I heard from most of the people in the military with whom I talked was that they will believe it when they see it. Those are good points. How many times have we heard these great announcements about all the new equipment and the new things that are going to happen that are going to help our military and our defence? These are all great things to say in a budget and pronounce, but they never seem to come to light.
Once again the Prime Minister with somebody else was out somewhere in the country making this big announcement that it is all going to take place. We are cheering it, that it is what we want to happen, but it does not seem to get there. I can understand why the people in the military sitting on the front lines in places like Afghanistan are saying, “We will believe it when we see it. When they get here, we will believe it”. In the meantime, it is all words, but it is in the budget.
As far as having a balanced budget, we cheer that. It is something that we said in 1993 had to happen. We pushed and pushed and finally at least the Liberals listened to us and they did get the budget balanced. Of course the taxes are higher than ever so it has been done on the backs of taxpayers, on the backs of provinces by cutting transfer payments, and on the back of the health care program which they reduced significantly in the early years to get the budget balanced.
It did not have to happen that way, but at least it is balanced. We are glad for that, but boy, it ought to be balanced. If they cannot balance a budget with the taxes that we pay in this country, then there is really something wrong.
When we look at what is taking place, we can understand why taxes have to be so high. After all, an election has not even been called and I have a list of what has happened just in the last two weeks. Is it not wonderful. The deputy leader of the government is giving $1 million for official languages in Sudbury. An ex-Conservative member who moved to the Liberals, who ran for the leadership, was glad to pass out a $50,000 cheque in his riding to buy bookshelves for a library. All kinds of grants have been given to different Liberal members throughout the land for renovations to old buildings or old schools, to upgrade them and make them look better.
The natural resources minister has been busy turning over thousands of dollars for archeological digs in Newfoundland. There is another $156,000 for a unique archeology website online to promote the digs and other features of that particular region.
Another Liberal put $35 million into his riding when he was the minister of the ACOA. He announced that there is another $348,000 for two wharves in his riding. On April 5 an MP unveiled a $361,000 cheque to restore a historic railway building. A couple of days later the Minister of Labour gave another $400,000 to renovate a theatre in her home town, and another $432,000 for an Acadian festival.
Out west the Minister of the Environment provided $150,000 for the Victoria Symphony Society. The present finance minister gave $25,000 to fund the magazine Prairie North in Saskatchewan.
The ex-fisheries minister managed to find $159,000 to refurbish the historic Sinclair Inn in his riding. One colleague from Ontario was able to announce $385,000 for job creation grants in his riding. That is fine; job creation is good.
An Edmonton MP announced $130,000 for the Council of Indian Societies. That is great stuff. There is nothing wrong with that.
A member of Parliament from Ontario got $64,000 for the Friends of the Macdonnell-Williamson House to hire three people and landed another $166,000 from human resources to hire people at a food bank.
In Vancouver the former cabinet minister who in her wildest dreams saw burning crosses on the lawns of the people who live in Prince George announced $734,000 for a youth job creation program. I would be the last to condemn anybody for these kinds of things, but I have a problem with an announcement of $734,000 for youth job creation when I have a letter from the City of Airdrie in my riding which says that presently human resources has stopped the funding of the youth employment service program that had served the country for 20 years. The program that put young people to work every summer has been discontinued.
The city of Airdrie, one of the prettiest cities, if not the prettiest in the entire country, had 163 students and 120 businesses last year that were registered in the program. This year there is nothing because it has been cut.
I do not understand how ministers who live in these various select ridings throughout the country can pass out millions and millions of dollars for these fine things in their ridings, yet in my riding out west a program that had been going on for 20 years has been cut. Is it that the government is giving the GST money back to the City of Airdrie and now it is going to cut some other things to balance the books again? Is that what it wants to do? Does it want to give here, but take there?
The government cut the GST from the municipalities, something that never should have been there in the first place. Kudos to the government, but then it turns around and takes away this program. What is the City of Airdrie going to do? It is such a valuable program, it has worked so well to help young people to get enough cash together over the summer to continue their education that the city will fund it itself, because it is worth doing. That means a lot more money from the municipalities. How many more small towns and cities across the country are not going to be able to benefit from a good program that was once established? Why does the budget not mention that?
I am sick and tired of hearing about what we are going to do for the Indians and the reserves. We have heard for 20 years that we have to do something about the poverty and the situation on the reserves. Absolutely. Grassroots natives across the country have been crying for that for years, and this is a big announcement now in the budget about the wonderful things we are going to do? As some of the people who live on the reserves in my riding have said to me that they will believe it when they see it. It is the same old story.
I only have one minute left and I am going to get this one in if it kills me. I did not see anything in the budget about fighting child pornography, a national strategy or something that would put the police forces in this land on a good footing to fight one of the most evil things in this land, and that is child pornography. There was not one mention of it. The House unanimously passed a motion to put forward some legislation that would take care of child pornography once and for all by eliminating all defences, yet the government insists on continuing to push Bill C-12, saying there must be room for public good.
Public good in child pornography is a bunch of nonsense. That is a no-brainer. That is something that should have been done years ago. I cannot understand why we sit here like a bunch of idiots and allow child pornography to continue to exploit our children all across the world. It is about the sickest thing that we can see that is not happening.
We could all stand up and be cheered if we would look after our kids in that fashion. We are not doing it and I am ashamed of every one of us, to stand here and say yes to it in one day and never see it happen.
Do not tell me that Bill C-12 is going to fix it because it will not. There is still a defence in there called public good and that is a broad term. It is about time the government got off its duff and did something about it.