Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on the non-confidence motion proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and seconded by the leader of the New Democratic Party, which simply says that the House does not have confidence in the government.
Mr. Speaker, I am sure you have an encyclopedic memory of Canadian history. I am not quite sure when a clear question like this, certainly a successful one, was last put to the House of Commons. It seems to me that most of the time governments collapse as a result of an amendment to a budget. I believe one collapsed in 1979. Certainly a budget is a confidence measure, but this is a very clear question.
For those of us who are prepared to support this, I think it is important to enumerate why we think this government should be removed from office. I realize I only have 10 minutes, which is somewhat confining, but be that as it may, I am pleased to be able to touch on a couple of points.
One of those points is the complete lack of leadership by the government in and its mismanagement of our relationship with the United States. I am not alone in believing that the Prime Minister has bungled this very important relationship.
I found it of passing interest yesterday to notice the headline in the Ottawa Citizen , which stated, “Report blames PM for chilled U.S. relations: Ex-ambassador cites 'erratic' policy, 'knee-jerk anti-American reactions'”. If I may, I will read the first paragraph, which states:
The biggest barrier to improved relations with the United States is the “uncertain, erratic policy stewardship” of [the] Prime Minister and his ministers, says a former Canadian ambassador to the United States.
I could not agree more, and those of us who live right on the border are the ones who feel this immediately.
I remember speaking earlier in this Parliament about the problems that we have at our bridges. Somebody said that of course we have a lot of bridges in Niagara so of course I would be concerned. What I said was, “Yes, it is an important local issue, but I am concerned because it affects Canada nationally”. If Canada's bridges do not work, then all of Canada will suffer.
Mr. Speaker, you know and I know and the members of the government should know that people who make decisions about investments do not just make those decisions for what they think is going to happen in the next couple of months; they make them for the next five or ten years. This is why I believe it is absolutely critical that the government deal with some of the issues that touch Canada's borders.
There has been an infrastructure program. In fairness, members will note in Hansard that I agree with money being put into infrastructure. I can say that I was not very happy when I was told there was no extra money for border guards in the Niagara area, as we have four bridges, but nonetheless, I applaud any money that goes into this area. But this is only one part of the problem.
One of the problems is the question of capacity. It has taken this government an inordinately great amount of time to make a decision in some of these areas. I noticed recently that the government is finally starting to move ahead in the Windsor area. I asked the Liberals what took them so long. How much traffic, how many traffic jams, how much of a backup, how much of a slowdown in commerce does it take before the government realizes that we need increased capacity? I see that some tentative steps have been made in the Windsor area, but we in the Niagara area are still waiting.
I have brought up this matter before with respect to the Peace Bridge and the Fort Erie crossing. There is an application to put in a new bridge. The Peace Bridge Authority is proposing to double the span. When is the government going to step forward? At this point, I have told people that they will now have to wait for a Conservative government to make these decisions because it is obvious that the Liberals are not going to do that.
With respect to the passport initiative, I have been urging the government to make this a higher profile matter with our colleagues in the United States. A proposal is before the United States Congress right now that would require those returning to the United States to have a passport or other secure document.
I have been to Washington twice on this issue. I talked to the commissioner for U.S. customs and I pointed out to him what a difficult thing this will be and what a chilling effect this will have on tourism. He asked what the problem was, saying that the program was not going to be coming in for a couple of years. I pointed out to him that the problem is now: people think they need this extra documentation now when they enter Canada and when they return to the United States. I have pointed out to them and to the government that we need action on this now. It is hurting tourism in Canada, in the Niagara area in southern Ontario and certainly across the country right now. The government has to make this a higher priority.
I have pointed out to the government as well that it has relied on the Niagara regional police for much of the security along the Niagara River. I have encouraged the government to do something and put more resources into security. That will allay some of the fears of our friends in the United States. I have told people on this issue as well as others that a Conservative government will do better.
On the question of agriculture, we heard what was in this third budget. Did we hear anything about agriculture? There was nothing there. There were all kinds of spending announcements, but some of the things we have been talking about are completely absent. On a number of occasions I have pointed out the CAIS program to the government. I have asked the government why it does not take some leadership, make changes and make it better for the farmers of this country. For the most part, the response is, “Well, the provinces are involved with this and it is very complicated but certainly we are looking into it”. That is not good enough for the farmers of this country.
I pointed out to the Minister of Agriculture not long ago that one of the problems we are having at the Canada-U.S. border is the fact that the words “no sugar added” cannot be used on fruit juices. The Canadian companies comply with that. They have an understandable complaint when they tell me that foreign companies are shipping fruit juices into this country and using the term “no sugar added”. I asked why there is a double standard. The Canada Border Services Agency says it does not have the resources to police this. Again I say to give farmers a break in this country. Let us help the people who produce these fruits.
My colleague from Niagara West—Glanbrook and I have introduced a bill in the House to reduce the excise tax on wine. What we are proposing would cost the government less than $10 million. It has made billions of dollars of announcements. I noticed that yesterday the Ottawa Sun said the government was “dishing out more than $4 billion yesterday alone”. Could we not have had a little bit for the Canadian wine industry? Would that have been so bad?
It is not just the member for Niagara West--Glanbrook and I who have been pushing this. The finance committee of the House of Commons has unanimously endorsed the idea. Members of the Liberal Party sitting there want their own government to do this. Again, I am at a point where now I am voting for this motion and I have to tell people a Conservative government will make this a priority. We all know the responsibilities of the member for Medicine Hat in the area of finance. Let me tell members this: as soon as there is a Conservative government, I am going to be knocking on his door. I am going to say, “Put this in. Make this happen. This would be a tremendous benefit to the Canadian wine industry”.
There are many reasons to have the government moved out. Certainly the Gomery commission is one of them. It is a national disgrace. Anyone who listened to it saw the litany of kickbacks, fraud and illegal election spending. That last is one of the things that irritates me the most. For every election I run in, I tell my campaign manager to be very careful. Last time, I sat down with my campaign manager, Mr. Jim Craig, and told him, “Please, spend less than the amount to make sure that we are in complete compliance”. Just in case we missed something along the line, I thought, we would still be well within the limits.
As we found out, though, all kinds of illegal dirty money was going into the last couple of elections, apparently at the behest of the Liberal Party. I thought to myself how unfair that must have been for candidates who were honest, for people who abided by the rules. How did they like finding out later on that the fix was in and all kinds of dirty money was going in to make sure they did not have a chance? That is not what this democracy is all about.
I think we can do better. I remember the words of the late John Diefenbaker, a great Conservative prime minister, who said that he and his party could build a country from the Atlantic to the Pacific with “equal opportunity for all and special privileges for none”.