Mr. Speaker, to carry on with the theme of this discussion and debate, just before I stood I was reminded of the government going after school lunch programs and seniors' lunch programs in British Columbia for non-payment of GST. Those programs were run by volunteers over the years. They were done at low cost for people with low incomes. Then they had a big penalty and a big bill to pay. This is absolutely contrary to the direction our government should be taking. From the government there was not a word, not an utterance, of defence, and not a word about stopping or preventing that kind of harassment. It was this side of the House that complained. Our complaints certainly resonated with the public, but they did not resonate with the government.
This is a prebudget debate. We are talking about an important budget. This is the first time in a minority Parliament for this Prime Minister, the same individual who unnecessarily played brinkmanship on the throne speech, who reversed himself within hours and who now is busy at the optics of governing without any commitment to principle. This is someone who continues to confuse foreign travel with foreign policy, who decidedly dithers due to a decision deficit, and who presides over an increasingly dispirited caucus.
As the critic for natural resources, I would like to talk in a broad way for a minute or two about the mining sector. I am very hopeful that in this budget the government will do the right thing on the flowthrough share provisions, which I believe should continue for this sector.
It is the flowthrough share provisions that have successfully led to the diamond industry development in this country, which has taken us from basically nowhere to number three producer in the world. It is anticipated that by as early as 2012 we will be the number one producer in the world. Canadian diamonds are already contributing $500 million to the federal treasury on an annual basis, based on last year, so this is payback time. However, it is also not a time to cut off this very important measure.
The geoscience area is another area that the mining industry needs to continue to develop to make it prosper. The provinces have been doing their job and the federal government needs to do its job. We need to continue to fund the geoscience sector at an appropriate level and not cut it back as this government has been doing.
Third is a favourite of mine and that is the jewellery tax. The excise tax on jewellery, the hidden tax, the one that is hampering Canada's ability to add value to our precious stones and metals, needs to be removed. Yesterday this House sent that bill off to committee after second reading. I am hopeful that we can axe that tax despite what the government might do. Perhaps the budget will pre-empt all of that. I would make that plea.
In the forestry sector, the industry is basically united in its concern over the fact that in the softwood dispute it has been abandoned by the government. By doing so, the government has left industry to deal with entrenched U.S. interests. The U.S. administration and the U.S. special interests lumber lobby certainly are supporting each other very strongly. It is a position contrary to what is happening in Canada.
Let us look at what has really happened. The Canadian forest industry has now put down cash deposits equivalent to the worldwide effort to aid the tsunami victims. It is phenomenal. Incredible penalties have been put on the Canadian forest sector, yet it has been abandoned by the government.
The energy sector is obviously crucial when we talk about natural resource industries. The government continues to have no plan on climate change. Now we hear that the government is talking about purchasing emissions trading credits worth $1 billion plus. That will not achieve one iota of real change. It will simply take Canadian taxpayers' money and transfer it. The most likely end for it will be in Russia or some other such country that has credits to offer, but it would not change anything done at the other end either, other than the fact that those countries would be the recipients of largesse from Canada.
Canada still has no energy framework. I do not think we have revised our energy policy on a national level since the 1950s.
We have red tape that is killing not just the energy sector but all of the resource industries whenever there is any major or significant project that they want to go ahead with. The most important thing that could be done on that front would be to get the federal house in order on smart regulations.
The industry is united in that plea. It wants the government to endorse, apply and adopt part 1 of the smart regulations report, which was tabled in this place on September 23. No single minister has taken on the responsibility or the accountability for that document. That is a problem. The government needs to adopt it. It needs a champion. It needs a salesman.
The opposition is doing what it can. We put it on the radar screen to get it into committee. The committee has adopted it as a focus for its study. If it continues to reside on the government side with the bureaucracy or the Privy Council, as opposed to the cabinet and the PMO, then it will go nowhere.
One thing that Canada is now known for is its penchant for red tape and bureaucracy. This has become Canada's impediment. This is our international non-competition factor. It seems a little strange to be talking about smart regulations in a prebudget speech, but it is the lack of smart regulation in Canada that is the major cost to industry and a major impediment.
A good example would be the northern pipeline, where we have built in delay. This is a project that is in the national interest. The official opposition has offered to participate with the government. It is absolutely crucial that the government make a decision.
We are prepared to work with the government to move that along. We have heard nothing despite that offer. Does the Northern Pipeline Act from the 1970s apply or does it not? We actually need a decision from the government.
On the renewable sector in energy, there are many decisions that are required to be made. The decisions that have been made to date, including the wind power initiative, are timid at best.
To conclude, it is my general observation, as the natural resources critic, that the entire sector is not impressed by government actions in this Parliament to date.