House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was million.


The BudgetGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my explanation is that this is an electoralist budget. It represents those the Liberals defend. It is an electoralist budget because of the Conservative Party's electoralist attitude as well. Both fear the opinion of Canadians and Quebeckers. Both fear the voting public. They do not want to have an election, and they have made compromises based on the Conservative platform in order to avoid that. That is the explanation.

More generally, however, I think the government has always shown disdain and arrogance toward the least advantaged in society, and toward Quebec even more. This is manifest in its lack of recognition of those in need everywhere in Canada and in Quebec, but even more so in its lack of recognition of the particular situation in Quebec. There is a special situation in Quebec, which is hit harder by fiscal imbalance and has a duty to protect, defend and promote the future of the Quebec nation. This is a reality not necessarily shared by the other provinces.

It is always the same old story with Liberal budgets in this connection. But this time they have few Quebec MPs from their party. It was worse when there were more of them, and could claim to be speaking on behalf of Quebeckers, while what they were doing and saying was the exact opposite of what Quebeckers expected from them. They were taught a lesson in the last election. Now they ought to be able to understand that the general interests of the population are not served by showing contempt for Quebec's institutions, its workers and its jobless. The interests they are defending in this budget are the interests of the Liberal Party of Canada, with the backing of the Conservatives who are, in turn, defending the interests of the Conservative Party of Canada, while both of them neglect the interests of the people.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, this budget is a profound disappointment, particularly to anyone who voted for the Liberals based on the lie that they share New Democrat values. That is what the Prime Minister pretended that he stood for in the election. He asked Canadians to choose their Canada.

Here is the Canada that he has chosen instead. Our pollution will rise. Tuition is going to continue to be a burden and become more expensive. More people are going to live on the streets. Workers will keep paying EI premiums for an insurance that they will never collect. Aboriginal squalor will grow; however, corporations will get billions of dollars in tax cuts.

That is not the vision that was promised by the Prime Minister when he went to Canadians and asked for their support. It is not the fundamental change that he promised Canadians. This budget is a betrayal of the progressive votes that he sought in the campaign's dying days. The only vision that the Prime Minister seems to have had was of the opposite side of the House. The budget is a set of broken promises.

This budget breaks Canada's promises to the world on foreign aid and the Kyoto protocol and reveals that the consultations were only a farce, a piece of theatre.

Our finance critic had exactly one meeting with the minister. After that, nothing. I take this opportunity to congratulate the hon. member for Winnipeg North on her excellent work, despite the finance minister's refusal to listen.

The relationship between the finance minister and the Conservative leader leaves one wondering what the member for Calgary Southeast would have to say about it, the same sect relationship.

My party had hoped that the Conservatives would not be quite so enthusiastic about this budget. My party had hoped that there would be the ability to perhaps make changes to honour the promises that the Liberals made to so many Canadians, and promises that they made time and time again over the years and broken.

I am speaking of their promises to cut pollution, to make education affordable, to build affordable housing, and to play a role in the world that makes us proud. It did not. The budget did not honour the Liberal promises to Canadians, pure and simple. Our party cannot vote for this betrayal.

Our country faces grave challenges. We are behind the world on environment. We have squandered a decade of unprecedented resources. We are neither educating nor training the workforce the way we should be. We are not investing in our economic engines and cities. Our economy is ill-prepared for the sustainability revolution that is to come and that other countries are embracing. We ignore demographic shifts and leave immigrant professionals driving cabs. We leave our first nations living in squalor.

We have more obligations to our children than simply reducing the debt. But let us be clear: a reduced debt is a good thing, but our obligation to the next generation goes much further than that. It must include clean and healthy air, accessible education, non-profit child care. This budget does not achieve that.

Canadians did not vote for these choices. Liberals did not even campaign on these choices. If Canadians want balanced budgets in every sense, they need to vote NDP. We now see once again that voting Liberal means voting money for Bay Street while forcing people on to the streets because there is no affordable housing and we are not building it the way we should.

Dumping billions of dollars into unaccountable foundations and eviscerating federal leadership and social policy does not build the country we want.

I want to address some of the key betrayals in the budget because far from “delivering commitments”, the title the Prime Minister chose for this document, the budget should be entitled “dithering on commitments”, or worse, “betrayal of commitments”, because that is the truth of the matter.

I do want to acknowledge there were some positive first steps made on child care. After 12 years of broken promises to do something about child care, it is about time there was some reference and some dollars put aside. We welcome the fact that there has finally been some movement, but we will be vigilant in ensuring that kids are protected through non-profit child care in a public system. We must invest in our children, but it must be in a framework that has been proven to work. We do not want to see big box Wal-Mart child care centres peppering this country.

Without a firm commitment to fight poverty, a child care program is insufficient. This budget gives billions of dollars in gifts and tax reductions to big businesses, while their profits are bigger than ever. And yet there is no increase in the child tax credit. Child poverty will continue, once again because of Liberal broken promises.

There is not one penny for building social housing. That is completely unreasonable. We are still travelling on the path laid out by the Liberals, a path from which we can see the gap between rich and poor growing wider every day.

This is not the Canada for which the people voted a few months ago. Yesterday, they were betrayed.

It is a budget that rewards wealth, instead of rewarding work. Canadians did not vote for dirtier air and more pollution but that is what they will get. In this budget we did not even hear in the speech a reference to Kyoto, the most important international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions that has ever been put together. There was no commitment to mandatory emissions standards. In fact, the Liberals voted against our proposals to do something about pollution in that sector. There is nothing on transferring subsidies from the polluting forms of energy, like oil and coal, over to the renewable forms of energy, the clean energy of the future. There is no vision whatsoever for the future when it comes to energy and pollution.

We did more at the City of Toronto in embracing efficiency than the Prime Minister has provided for in his budget. Cities and communities are also doing much more without much help from the federal government.

The fact is that the government has no plan, no commitment and very few ideas with regard to dealing with this issue. It is simply impossible now for Canada to keep its promise to the world and to its citizens to meet the greenhouse gas reduction objectives that we signed onto. We have broken our promise to the world on pollution and we can look forward to more smog days next summer. In fact, we even have them now in the wintertime, where people cannot breathe and they have to head off to the emergency rooms. They can thank the Prime Minister for the lack of action on that.

I want to thank the leader of the Bloc Québécois for including our concern about this in his excellent subamendment to the speech on the budget.

If the short-sightedness on the environment is staggering, and it is, then the continued choice to put education out of reach is nothing short of despicable. Not one penny was invested in lowering costs for students. Students and their families are facing a crushing debt burden, and worse than that, they are having to decide not to go to school. What a waste of our resources. We have all these young people, with their talents available and wanting to invest their lives in an educational future so they can make a contribution to the economy of this next century, and we deny them that possibility by putting education out of reach. It is not acceptable.

The budget does provide, however, for students only when they die. It is absolutely absurd. They are going to write off student debt if the student is dead. Who is supposed to celebrate that? It also refuses to train workers or to educate young people. It is simply an asinine public policy and the Liberals should be ashamed of themselves.

What about our place in the world in the global community? We expected some real action in this area. In fact, the leaders of the opposition parties made a proposal with regard to foreign aid. However our foreign aid levels will not rise to the level that Canada has long promised the world. We have put it off. We welcome the investment in peacekeeping but foreign aid prevents conflicts that peacekeeping is then later required to solve. They go hand in hand. Given the generosity of Canadians in response to the tsunami, we want to help those in need and keep this long broken Liberal promise to the world, but again we will not see it in this budget.

We have the opportunity to make a choice about our place in the world and whether we are going to respond to Canadians' moral imperative that they demonstrated with their generosity, which was that Canada should be behind the investment all around the world that is needed in order to lift millions and millions of people out of poverty and disease. Instead, we stand at the back of the pack and do virtually nothing. There are many other issues that we should discuss in this budget and our members will be raising them in the debate days to come.

As for employment insurance, it is incredible to see the government's lack of action, after the good work that was done in the standing committee. On this topic, I want to thank the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst for his hard work as the NDP's representative on that committee.

With respect to the aboriginal people, they are stuck in absolutely incredible poverty because of the government' s lack of action.

We can also talk about pensions. No action was taken to help those who are older now and remain poor. This budget is a failure when it comes to pensions. The Liberals have not even attempted to address these chronic problems affecting average Canadians.

My party cannot, in conscience, support this budget, because it simply does not deliver the goods, and that is that.

My party cannot vote for this budget. We wanted to engage with the government to improve the budget after it was delivered, which is what should be happening in a minority House of Commons to honour the progressive votes that were given to both of our parties. However it is clear again that the Liberals do not deliver on NDP values, despite what the Prime Minister says at election time.

If people want to see NDP values in action, they will have to vote NDP and then they will see balanced and pragmatic approaches to dealing with their concerns based on their values.

We are deeply disappointed that the Prime Minister has broken his word, not for ourselves, but for the people who are living on the streets, the people who are trying to go to school, the people who need to receive assistance from EI, even though they have paid into it for years and are unable to get that assistance, and for the people who are choking on smog.

The budget is a betrayal, which is why we will be voting against it.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Scarborough—Guildwood Ontario


John McKay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have now heard from two of the parties that will never have to make choices in this Parliament.

The NDP members love to preach to the choir. They set out their menu of 10 or 15 crises priorities. They do not have to balance it according to all other priorities. They just have to go with their priorities. They announce it as their 15 favourite crises that need to be done.

When the government actually addresses two or three of those so-called crises, so-called important things that need to be done, NDP values, then there are still twelve left and they can add another three on because they did not get those covered off in this particular budget.

I wonder what part of this budget the hon. member does not like. Does he not like the health care, which was initially $41 billion additional money in September and then the minister added a further $805 million for healthy human resources, healthy living, disease prevention, pandemics, et cetera?

Did he not like the part about the seniors? Did he not like the increase in the GIS, the $2.7 billion over the next two years to increase the seniors GIS to $400 and $700 for singles and couples respectively?

He did not seem to like the part with respect to investing in people. He did not like the $5 billion set aside for child care. After all, was this not one of his priorities? These are all his priorities and he does not seem to like any of them because he did not have to make any choices.

I ask the hon. member what particular aspects of those three choices did he not like?

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11:40 a.m.


Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is rather clear that the hon. member did not bother to listen to my speech because we singled out the child care investment as an important first step. The member chose to ignore that reference and I guess we have to treat his commentary on my observations in that light.

I take considerable offence, as I think most Canadians would, to the wave of the hand definition of crises that we are facing in this country as so-called crises. Let him say that to the people who are living on the streets because they cannot afford any housing, because the government has not built any houses.

Let the member stand before homeless individuals and ask them about their so-called crisis. That is shameful. Let him say that to people who have to go to an emergency ward, as they do by the thousands, because they cannot breath the air. Let the member say to those people that they have a so-called crisis. Let him talk to the families of those who have died as a result of the pollution that has been produced by the lack of action of the government. Let him tell them that their crisis is so-called as he stands beside them.

This is the kind of callous arrogance that drove Canadians to send the Liberal Party into minority status in the election and yet it comes right back with that callous approach.

On the so-called crisis of children living in poverty, I ask the member to go to a food bank and greet people by saying that their crisis is a so-called crisis.

What about students who cannot afford to go to school? It is all well and good for the children of those families who can afford it. Maybe that is all the member and the government care about. The government is going to give a break for a student who dies and still owes some debt. Who does that help out? It helps out the banks because they are the ones that need to collect the debt, so they do not have to collect it from the families.

Why do students have this kind of debt? It is because the government cut funding to post-secondary education in unprecedented ways and levels. As a result, students are having to work extra jobs, take part time courses and are graduating with massive debts.

Instead of having an investment strategy to create jobs and a focused strategy on training, we see once again no action and no plan.

For the member to suggest that Kyoto and climate change is a so-called crisis is to ignore all of the evidence. Let me name just one. The Arctic climate change assessment put together by the circumpolar Innu people and agreed to by Canada said that it was a crisis and yet the government and its representatives want to simply diminish the issue with a wave of the hand.

We were very specific about the choices that we wanted the government to make but it is very clear what choice it has made. Indeed, it was a stampede from the Conservatives to come out and celebrate the budget that they had helped to create. It was an absolute stampede.

When the Prime Minister became the leader of his party we said that the Liberal Party had taken a turn toward conservatism. Who could have predicted in the last week of the election that we would have a budget with huge corporate tax cuts and massive debt reduction proposals that will leave us with deficits in all of the other important areas, and that the Conservatives would be the first ones supporting it, the very ones the Prime Minister campaigned against in the election. It is a betrayal.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a few of simple questions today.

First, I would like to ask the leader of the NDP specifically whether he supports the plan in the government's budget to continually fund the gun registry. I understand there was a vote awhile back and he and many of his members supported to continue to fund it. Is it a long term plan of the NDP under his leadership to keep funding the useless, wasteful gun registry that makes criminals out of duck hunters.

Second, he railed against big box child care providers. Does he agree with the Conservative Party that the funds delivered for child care, rather than go to government run babysitting facilities, should be put directly into the pockets of families so they can make their own decisions about how to care for their families?

Third, what is so wrong with paying off the debt? When the debt is paid off, money is freed up to service debt, and in the long term there is more money for all the programs about which the NDP care so wildly.

Could he address those three points?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, that from a political party that practically left Saskatchewan in bankruptcy. I do not think we have to take any lessons from the member's party on that one. In fact, the New Democrats came back cleaned up the mess.

I and certainly the New Democrats do not need to be lectured about proper fiscal management. The NDP, when in power, has the best record of any political party we can find. The member can check the numbers.

We support paying down debt, but the priorities are completely out of whack. There is a huge debt reduction campaign, which the Prime Minister said was his biggest objective, and there is an huge debt reduction proposal in this budget. Enormous contingency funds will be allocated with no debate whatsoever. I am shocked that the member opposite and his party would support such a budget.

I was beginning to think we were in a humour moment in the House. He asked the NDP about the gun registry. His party is going to support the budget of the government. What is this, some kind of a joke?

How can the member from Saskatchewan stand and support a budget that gives nothing for farmers when they are living on the edge? However, he is perfectly happy to support the government because of its big tax cuts to big corporations on Bay Street. How will that help any of the farmers living on the edge. They are producing food for us and the world virtually for free? In fact, they lose money. They have negative income, and that party is going to support a budget that does nothing about that. Shame.

The BudgetGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Papineau Québec


Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of the budget tabled yesterday in this House by my colleague, the Minister of Finance.

Once again, the federal budget bears the trademark that Canadians have come to expect from the Liberal government. This is a prudent and balanced budget for the management of public finances. It maintains the sound foundations of our economic success with well targeted tax measures. It also invests in the real priorities expressed by Canadians.

I am pleased that the budget includes a substantial program for the environment. I am pleased that the government is getting involved in the education of young children. However, as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am particularly pleased to see the significant amounts earmarked in this budget to expand Canada's role in the world, in defence and security, in development and, of course, in diplomacy.

Whenever I travel abroad, I am always struck by how Canada is respected and appreciated. Our unique and distinct identity is reflected abroad through our values, our actions and the responsibilities that we assume. Whether it is the contribution by our troops and police officers in maintaining peace and civil order in Haiti and Afghanistan, by our volunteers in Africa, or by our consular officers in the countries hit by the tsunami, that presence is what makes Canada truly different. This identity and the priority that will guide our government's initiatives abroad will be presented in a foreign policy statement which, I can assure the House, will soon be released.

The measures in this budget will allow Canada to assert itself even more confidently throughout the world.

It is a truism that modern foreign policy is a three D effort. Diplomacy, defence and development must all be harnessed together in a single coherent framework. The budget strengthens all three elements. It brings significant new funds for defence and development, and lays the essential foundation for transformation into a foreign ministry of the 21st century, embarking on a path toward a new diplomacy in tune with the aspirations and capabilities of Canadians.

One thing is clear. Canadians want their country to play a prominent leadership role in world affairs. They want us to defend Canadian interests and to promote Canadian values, and to do so with vigour, determination and intelligence. The budget takes some significant steps that deliver on the government's pledge to enhance Canada's place in the world.

To reinforce Canada's diplomatic capabilities over the next three years, we will boost the number of Canada's representatives abroad. Some $42 million will be invested in this over the next five years. This recognizes the essential value of Canada's global network of embassies and consulates to our security and prosperity, and the need to effectively employ the knowledge and skills of our diplomatic personnel on the international stage.

We are also committing some $40 million over the next five years to public diplomacy, which confirms the importance of the international activities of Canadian artists and scholars. We are also working with organizations like the Forum of Federations which will receive an endowment of some $20 million to support its international activities in the Asia Pacific foundations, which will benefit from a $50 million endowment.

Our international assistance will be increased by $3.4 billion over the next five years. This will add significantly to the contribution that Canada is able to make to international development. From this envelope, some $172 million will be devoted to a new Canadian debt relief initiative.

In the area of defence and security, I would like to underscore the important investments that are being made in the Canadian Forces. Almost $13 billion in new money will be spent over the next five years. This is the largest five year increase in the last two decades. It delivers on the commitment to expand the Canadian Forces by 5,000 additional troops and 3,000 new reserves. This will significantly enhance Canada's military capabilities and enable us to project them overseas more effectively in support of our foreign policy goals. The new funding is a mark of our determination to transform the Canadian Forces so it is better structured to respond to the new asymmetric threat environment at home and abroad.

These investments are important because we face a security environment dramatically different than during the cold war. While prospects of nuclear war and tensions between superpowers have diminished, prospects of asymmetrical threats have risen.

Advances in technology have made threats more portable and harder to detect. And, the targets are increasingly innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure.

In a world where we face so many unpredictable threats, the strengthening and adaptation of our 3D, defence, diplomacy and development, approach is essential. If we are to play a leading role in advancing peace and stability, and meet the challenges posed by global terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and failed and failing states, we must ensure we are prepared to respond to emerging dangers.

The budget is an important step in achieving these goals. It contains a commitment of an additional $100 million in each of the next five years for global peace and security, for a total of $500 million. This money will go to funding a number of initiatives that will enable Canada to act decisively and effectively in addressing international security challenges.

These initiatives will include renewal of the Human Security Program and a $20 million contribution to support the African Union mission in Darfur.

I should also mention another measure closely focussed on the security of Canadian citizens: the $59 million in funding for increased security at our missions overseas. This money will ensure that Canadians working for our country's interests do so in the safest possible conditions.

There is no greater responsibility for this government than the security of our citizens and the defence of Canada. That is why, almost one year ago, we put in place an integrated national security strategy that addresses the full spectrum of threats to our security, whether it be in Canada, within North America or internationally.

We have supported this comprehensive approach with major investments in our security and defence infrastructure. In fact, since budget 2001, we have invested over $8.3 billion—not including today's numbers—on security and defence priorities ranging from border security to intelligence to emergency preparedness and air security.

The Government of Canada also understands the importance of a strong partnership and collaboration in providing the security of North America. We have a long and proud tradition of cooperation with the United States in the defence of North America. In this regard, the budget confirmed an investment of some $433 million over the next five years in border security.

Whether it is on the Smart Borders Action Plan or in strengthening Norad, we have worked closely and effectively with our U.S. partners because we are deeply committed to our own security, the security of North America and to our partnerships.

That collaboration goes beyond North America because we know that ensuring our security must start well beyond our borders. Canada and the United States are partners overseas cooperating to address the challenges posed by terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and failed and failing states.

In Afghanistan and Haiti, we have worked side by side to promote stability and security. In the Middle East, Canada is providing training. In Iraq, we are providing reconstruction assistance. We are also collaborating on efforts to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Iran is a case in point.

This cooperation with the United States will continue. Indeed, the government's decision to invest in the Canadian Forces, as we demonstrated in yesterday's budget, will reinforce our ability to contribute to joint security initiatives. At the same time, it is important that the government weigh its priorities and review them carefully from the perspective of Canada's national interest.

There has been one other security issue which has attracted considerable attention in recent years, but which is not referred to in the budget. I am referring to the question of whether Canada will participate in the United States ballistic missile defence system. I would like to take this opportunity to inform the House of the government's position on this important subject.

The government has been studying the issue of missile defence for some time. We have been in close contact with our counterparts in Washington. The U.S. has weighed the risk to its citizens and territory against available resources, and has decided to proceed with deployment of a missile defence system. This is their right, and we understand and respect their decision.

Canada, however, must act in its own interests, and must determine where its own priorities lie. We must determine where investments will bring the greatest tangible results. After careful consideration of the issue of missile defence, we have decided that Canada will not participate in the U.S. ballistic missile defence system at this time.

This will not in any way diminish our ongoing cooperation with the United States. Security remains our shared priority. As part of the renewal of Norad, the government is exploring new and innovative ways to work with the United States in defence of North America, including a more integrated approach to countering maritime threats, development of a more comprehensive plan to deal with threats and emergencies affecting our two countries, and new military-to-military arrangements for the support of civilian authorities during crises.

We will continue our efforts to enhance the protection of North America, as set out in the new partnership statement that President Bush and Prime Minister Martin announced on November 30. We will work closely to build on the success of Smart Borders and engage Mexico to join our defence and security framework so that we may better align our roles, priorities and interests.

We will consider all options carefully, and we will pursue our priorities vigorously. We have already identified areas like border security and maritime security requiring enhanced binational cooperation and new resources. And, as we demonstrated in yesterday's Budget, we are committed to investing in these areas.

The government understands the importance of working with the United States on continental defence, and in the pursuit of peace and stability internationally. These are priorities for us and we will continue to make decisions that serve these goals. In doing so our guiding lights are and shall remain: Canada's interests and the security of Canadian citizens.

I call on all parties in the House to explain to our fellow citizens on both sides of the border the considerations our country has given to this decision. We must also respect our neighbour who has decided to move forward with the ballistic missile defence. On this side of the House, we believe we have made this decision based on policy principles and not on sheer emotion.

The message of the 2005 Budget is very clear. The government is making a critical investment in Canada's international stature. It shows that the government is listening to Canadians and understands that they want their government engaged actively and making a difference in the world.

The BudgetGovernment Orders



Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the foreign affairs minister for standing in his place today and at least according this House the respect of making the announcement that Canada will not participate in Bush's missile madness. This is a very welcome decision.

I think that words of congratulation must go out to Canadians right across this country in community after community who have made their views known. The more they found out about missile defence, the more strenuously they registered their objection and their opposition. The foreign affairs minister's announcement today is a very welcome one.

It is extremely unfortunate that the Prime Minister did not see fit because it did not quite suit his political plan to make that announcement at the time the decision was made. I do not want to detract from the importance. It is an important victory for Canadians who understand the kind of role in the world that people around the globe would want for us.

In that regard, in view of the fact that we are debating the budget that is now before us, I want to raise a couple of brief questions with the minister. I note and welcome the fact that he acknowledged the tremendous contribution made by our embassy staff who work around the world for Canada and for Canadians.

I wonder if the minister could address some very serious concerns about the systematic erosion of status, presence and level of remuneration for our very professional and highly respected foreign service officers in the world.

I was shocked to be reminded lately of how serious that erosion is with two statistics. First, going back not very many years, there was a balance of fifty-fifty between the foreign service personnel that were located here in Ottawa and those that were out on mission, out in our embassies around the world.

It has now deteriorated to the point where the ratio is 4:1 Ottawa based to embassy based. I welcome the minister's indication that we are going to be upgrading the presence of our foreign service personnel around the world. Will we also be taking the opportunity to upgrade the level of remuneration? The second shocking point is that Canada has now dropped to number 20 of the G-20 countries in terms of our level of remuneration to our foreign service officers.

I also want to ask the minister to address the issue of the continuing humiliating low level of Canada's contribution to ODA.

I know he has pointed out that there are over a number of years increases in our commitment to ODA. Where are the targets and timetables that our Prime Minister always seems so fond to talk about when it comes to meeting the dictates and the demands of Bay Street, where are the targets and timetables that would take us from the humiliating low to which the Martin budget going back several years reduced us and has kept us at 2.24% of GDP being contributed to ODA to the .7% to which Canada has been supposedly an adherent and a supporter for many decades?

Would the minister please indicate whether we can look forward to targets and timetables? When can we hope that we will finally pull Canada out of this embarrassing position of lagging and falling further behind in comparison to many countries that have already met and a number that have already exceeded the .7% ODA?

The BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the BMD question we have always said that we would make our decision in the best interests of Canada.

Ultimately, this decision is the result of our values and concerns as Canadians in a world in constant evolution. I believe that this is the Canada we want for the twenty-first century.

I want to thank the member for Halifax for her generous words concerning our diplomats around the world. We indeed have a very fine diplomatic service in Canada. We have invested a lot in terms of training and development of linguistic skills. It is important that we do everything we can to keep them with us and offer them challenging careers. I appreciate very much her support for improving their remuneration. I hear about that when I travel around the world.

Clearly, I will take the member's second point as support for the $42 million in the budget that will allow us to send many more diplomats abroad. The member is right, I have publicly acknowledged many times that the balance of diplomats that we have at headquarters, vis-à-vis the ones we have in diplomatic missions abroad, was not the right one and that we were the lowest of the G-8 countries.

I am pleased that the budget, with $42 million over the next five years, will allow us to redress this balance where we will have more diplomats serving Canadians in missions abroad. This is a priority that we had expressed and I am pleased that my department will be able to do this.

On the last question, frankly, I am at a loss for words because a $3.4 billion increase in international assistance is an extraordinary contribution. This is a remarkable contribution. I believe that on the international front, we will be in the position of having doubled Canada's international assistance. If we take 2001, when we get to 2010, we will have doubled it. This is a very significant contribution to international assistance. I appreciate the member's support for more on that front.

I believe that foreign policy needs to integrate the three tools: our significant investment in defence, almost $13 billion over the next five years; a doubling of our international development assistance; and, of course, substantial contributions as well to our diplomatic services.

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12:10 p.m.


Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for coming today to speak on the budget. I was disappointed, though, with the minister's announcement, not so much with the content of the announcement but with the fact that he would come here and announce that Canada would not be involved in the ballistic missile defence system.

The reason I am frustrated with that is because the same Prime Minister and the minister himself always gave indications that we would be bringing the debate to the House of Commons, that before there was a decision, there would be a debate and questions asked here in the House of Commons.

The NDP stands and claims great victory, but we have not had that opportunity. In committee, every time that we have looked at the ballistic missile defence system, we have had major concerns with the system, but the government was on the other side. Government members were explaining why we needed it. The parliamentary secretary was explaining why we needed the ballistic missile defence system. The Conservative Party had concerns. Now the minister stands in the House and makes this announcement.

The Prime Minister, even at a town hall meeting with CBC said, “Before any decision is made, there will be a vote in the House of Commons”. That did not happen. I am frustrated and disappointed with the government on that count.

I am also disappointed that we have been waiting in Parliament and in our committee for the international policy review.

We have had the empty promises with BMD. We have had the empty promises that the IPR would be coming in August, then in October, and then at the end of January, or the beginning of February. We are now coming into March and the foreign affairs and international trade committee still has not had the opportunity to take a look at the vision that this government has on international policy.

I am wondering if the minister would stand today and tell us when we can expect the international policy review so that the foreign affairs and international trade committee can study it and Parliament can have an opportunity to debate it.

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12:10 p.m.


Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the member's first point, this has been debated in Parliament several times. We have had the opportunity to discuss it regularly. There was a commitment to vote should we decide to participate in it. That is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition himself said. The Leader of the Opposition himself two days ago said exactly that, that there should be a vote if we decide to participate in it. We have now announced that Canada will not participate in it.

As for the international policy statement, I hope very much that we will be in a position to bring it to the parliamentary committee shortly. We have been working very diligently on it. It is a complex task because this is not only a foreign policy review that we are conducting this time, but an integrated international policy statement that integrates the four core international policy review departments of trade, diplomacy, defence and development, and beyond that, the 15 departments that have international activities abroad. It is a daunting challenge, but we will have the opportunity to discuss it in the parliamentary committee soon, I hope.

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12:15 p.m.


Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the Minister of Foreign Affairs that if Quebeckers were listening to him just now, they are extremely happy that Canada has decided not to take part in the missile defence shield.

However, had this moment occurred before the Canadian Ambassador-elect to the United States appeared before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, it would have been even better. In fact, currently, in all honesty, we have doubts about the significance of this refusal, after the ambassador-elect said, basically, that the Americans have everything they had wanted, even though it is the government's decision.

The ambiguity remains, and I want to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs if he would agree to allow a debate in the House on this issue as a whole.

We fully agree that Canada must not take part in the missile defence shield, but what is the purpose of its participation in Norad? In our opinion, this needs clarification.

Also, a debate on this issue would allow consultations to be held, as the minister wanted. We know that the position has been taken and we agree with that position. However, for anyone who remains concerned or undecided about this decision, there needs to be some major action so that all Quebeckers and Canadians can agree with this position not to participate in the missile defence shield.

I am asking the minister if he would agree to allow a debate on this issue in the House.

I hope to have the opportunity to ask him a number of other questions about his speech and about what was not in the budget for foreign affairs. A few points have already been raised, but since the Speaker is on the edge of his seat and is indicating to me that my time is up, I will stop here.

I would like a response from the minister.

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12:15 p.m.


Pierre Pettigrew Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us be precise. In our press release of August 5, when we agreed to the Norad amendment, and also that certain information would be transmitted to the American command in the missile field, we made this amendment in order to ensure that Norad remained relevant. For 30 years, nonetheless, Norad has had this mission, this role which is extremely important to us.

Allow me to read from the press release issued on August 5, 2004, in which we said:

It makes good sense to amend the agreement so that this essential Norad function can be preserved and Canada can continue to benefit from the security it provides to our citizens. This amendment safeguards and sustains Norad regardless of... ballistic missile defence.

Our position is clear: we will not participate in the “operationalization” of this defence system. I am very glad that the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île recognizes that the Liberal government has, once again, been able to reflect the priorities and values of Quebeckers. The Government of Canada reflects Canadian values. We know that these Canadian values have deep roots in Quebec; Quebeckers have made this clear.

I certainly appreciate that the hon. member for La Pointe-de-l'Île recognizes our government has, once again, reflected the aspirations of Quebeckers in this delicate matter.

The BudgetRoyal Assent

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received which is as follows:

Rideau Hall


February 23, 2005

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Louis LeBel, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in his capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 24th day of February, 2005, at 11:02 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Barlow for Barbara Uteck

Secretary to the Governor General

The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to: Bill C-7, an act to amend the Department of Canadian Heritage Act and the Parks Canada Agency Act and to make related amendments to other Acts--Chapter No. 2; Bill C-4, an act to implement the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment and the Protocol to the Convention on International Interests in Mobile Equipment on Matters Specific to Aircraft Equipment--Chapter No. 3; Bill C-302, an act to change the name of the electoral district of Kitchener--Wilmot--Wellesley--Woolwich--Chapter No. 4; Bill C-304, an act to change the name of the electoral district of Battle River--Chapter No. 5; and Bill C-36, an act to change the boundaries of the Acadie—Bathurst and Miramichi electoral districts--Chapter No. 6.

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

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12:20 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Central Nova.

It is my pleasure to rise and address budget 2005. At the outset I want to note a glaring omission, especially considering it was coming from a finance minister who makes his home in Regina, Saskatchewan.

I am talking about the fact that in the very long budget speech he did not even take note of the crisis on Canadian farms today; I see a friend of mine from the Regina area back here. Out on the farm today, it is a disaster. Farm incomes have been negative for a number of years. In 2003 we had negative farm incomes for the first time since the Great Depression. Today grain and oilseed prices are worse, if anything. They have fallen through the floor and of course we are still suffering with the mad cow crisis.

There was no mention of this farm disaster in the budget. There was certainly no help. The only thing in there was a reference to the cash deposit that producers must make to the CAIS program. In fact, a few weeks ago we moved a motion in this place, and had it passed, it would have eliminated the cash deposit. That did find its way into the budget document.

So again the Conservative Party is pushing the agenda on standing up for the Canadian farm. I am very disappointed that the finance minister, who is from Regina, did not even take note of the disaster on Canadian farms today.

First and foremost, budget 2005 really was an admission that the Conservative Party was right. In the last election campaign, the Conservative Party campaigned on a platform of tax relief and of increases in spending for the Canadian military. The government told Canadians that if we went down that road it would hurt Canada. It said that would drive Canada into deficit. We proposed spending over $50 billion on those initiatives.

A few months later, we have a Liberal government back in power proposing to spend over $50 billion on similar initiatives. But guess what? Now it will not drive Canada into deficit because now it is the Liberals doing it. Apparently somehow that makes a difference in how much money we have. I just want to point to that duplicity. It was completely dishonest. Unfortunately they got away with it, but I hope that Canadians will note what they have done and be mindful of that as we approach another election.

We have some criticism of this budget. I know people have pointed to the fact that we have said we will not bring down the government on this budget. It is true. We will not. We will not bring down the government because we think it has made some positive steps in certain areas. We are happy to see that. Again, it is an acknowledgement that the Conservative Party was correct on these things.

We do not think it went far enough and fast enough in some areas, there is no question about it. I will talk about that in a moment, but it is also true that the Conservative Party is here to serve Canada and we want to make this minority Parliament work. We think we can twist some arms to get the government to do some positive things.

We have already done that. We recently passed a motion that really has forced the government to have independent forecasters come in, look at the books of the government and determine how large surpluses will be down the road so the government cannot again play games with these surpluses. It is trying to play games, but now we have an independent set of numbers and can say, “Wait a minute, we can see that government is lowballing the size of the surplus”. It is doing that actually; it is lowballing the size of the surplus going into next year and the years after, next year by $4 billion alone. That is why we are arguing it could do more, but I want to set that aside for a moment.

We are here to serve the public. Canada does not want an election today. That is very clear. We understand that. We are willing to try to make this Parliament work, but having said that, we are also going to twist Liberal arms to make sure that it works not for the Liberal Party but for Canadians.

We have criticisms. I have touched on a couple of them already. One of the criticisms we have is on the huge increase in the cost of the bureaucracy over the last number of years.

Since 1997 the cost of the bureaucracy in Canada has gone up 77%. Despite that, the government, even though it has lots of money for its own boondoggles and lots of money for the cost of the bureaucracy, gave a very begrudging tax cut to low income Canadians. When it comes to ensuring that people at the low end of the income scale have a few more dollars in their pockets, the government provides them with a $16 tax break on their tax bill next year. I could spend that $16 in a parking meter. That is $1.25 a month. That is like a down payment on a large coffee at Tim Hortons. That is clearly inadequate; in fact, it is an insult. The government has to refocus and start to treat Canadians with a little respect.

Over the last dozen years Canadians have seen their take home pay frozen. They have seen no rise at all in their take home pay. Don Drummond, former deputy minister of finance and now chief economist at the TD Bank, has said over and over again that Canadians must have a national pay raise. The only way that can happen is if the government changes its priorities. It has to ensure that some of the surplus it generates is turned back to Canadians in the form of lower taxes. That must happen for the working poor and for middle income Canadians who often feel as if they are left out. They need to get that break.

We in the Conservative Party think that many of these measures are too little too late. I would say the same thing about national defence.

When the government announced its spending on national defence, it simply reannounced a number of things it had already announced, things like spending on medium range helicopters. The government made these announcements before, but they were put in the budget to make it sound like it is a great big number.

Of course we appreciate the spending on defence, and of course it should be there, but let us not pretend it is more than it really is. That is what the government does every time. It reannounces old spending and does it over a multi-year period so it sounds like a great big number, but when it is spread out over five years it is a lot less impressive. We need to keep that in mind.

There are many things the government still has to do. Some of these contributions are welcome, but as our defence critic pointed out, there is still not enough money for maintenance of existing equipment. There will be some purchases of new equipment, which is welcome, but there is not even enough money for the maintenance of existing equipment.

The government has to do a lot more when it comes to ensuring that we look after the Canadian military. They are the people who defend us, the people whom we count upon to be our face in the world when they go on peacekeeping missions and when they deliver disaster relief as they did during the tsunami crisis in southeast Asia.

The Conservative Party has many other concerns with respect to this budget. One of the big concerns I have as finance critic is the government has announced a number of measures where it has committed huge amounts of money, such as $5 billion for child care and $5 billion for climate change initiatives, but there are no plans attached to them.

I get worried when the government oversees big pools of money and there are no plans as to how the money will be distributed to meet certain objectives that are in the public interest. That looks like a boondoggle in the making to me. The child care and climate change initiatives are going to cost $10 billion. We should all be sore afraid.

The Auditor General condemned the government for setting up foundations where Parliament had no oversight, where there were no performance audits. It looks like the exact same thing with those two programs in particular. We are concerned about that as well.

My leader has said and I am saying that we will not defeat the government on this budget. We want to work with this minority Parliament in the interests of Canada. We know it has only been eight months since the last election. We have already had three elections in eight months in my part of the world in Alberta. I do not think Canadians want to have a fourth.

We will also hold the government to account. We will try to amend pieces of legislation that deal with some of these specific measures as they come through the House and committee to improve them. That is our role as the official opposition. We are here to work for Canadians.

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12:30 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague on the finance committee, the finance critic for the Conservative Party, for his speech today. I would like to explore further the Conservative support for the Liberal budget which we note is unprecedented. It is quite remarkable in every aspect. To have the Conservatives and Liberals on the same page on a budget is mind boggling quite frankly.

We would certainly like to explore the reasons for that, especially in the context of listening to the member's speech. He talked about too little to late. He talked about the meagre $16 a year for low income families as a tax break, that he could spend more in one fell swoop at a parking metre, how it barely covers a cup of Tim Hortons coffee, and the list goes on.

Why did his party agree to support the budget right off the bat without even trying to negotiate something better? Particularly since the member himself said that the Conservatives were going to try to make the minority Parliament work for Canadians, why did he not try to get something more out of this than he got, which was not very much? How does he explain his response in the context of the Conservative Party's finance critic's report at the finance committee which stated, “Canadians should not have to settle for another round of lost opportunities”?

Could the member explain how the budget is really not another round of lost opportunities?

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12:35 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member is asking why we were not able to negotiate more. I simply have to point out we were the only party that was able to negotiate anything. It was our party that pushed the issue of getting some tax relief for low and middle income Canadians. I grant that this is not nearly enough, that the government should do more, but we got something.

We also have been pushing to ensure that businesses got some tax relief so that we would not see jobs disappear overseas. It is important that we keep jobs in Canada. It is not enough, but we got something.

I agree this is not enough. We would like to see more, but we are not on the government side right now. We are in opposition. We used our influence as best we could to help the Canadian people. Although it is not enough, I think the Canadian public does not want an election today and they want us to continue to try to twist arms and to make this minority Parliament work.

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12:35 p.m.


Myron Thompson Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague on his speech. We are neighbours in Alberta. His riding and mine are side by each.

I have to admit it was kind of pleasant to walk into the office this morning. I did not get any e-mails on same sex marriage, but I received a whole bunch from farmers.

I have explained to farmers first of all that they must remember it is the Liberals who have failed to do anything. They have done nothing. It is unfortunate that they have done nothing in the budget. It means that in my riding a whole bunch of people will have to go to the bank, cough up their land and lose their property. That is an absolute shame.

I have already let it be well known that I cannot support a budget that will not support my farmers. I would like the member to respond to that.

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12:35 p.m.


Monte Solberg Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

I appreciate that question, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate my friend who has always been stalwart in standing up for people on the farm. I note that my leader in his amendment to the budget has called on the government to be much more aggressive in providing support for Canadian farmers who are struggling like they have not struggled since the Great Depression.

We have seen commodity prices fall through the floor. Usually on the farm if cattle are not doing well, then maybe grains and oilseeds are, or vice versa. This time they are both in real trouble. We are seeing people in desperate straits.

That is why I am glad that my party and my caucus have been able to get some measures passed that actually did find their way into the budget. It is not enough, but it shows that we are showing some leadership on this and we are trying to move things forward to help Canadian farmers.

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12:35 p.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by congratulating my colleague from Medicine Hat. He has done a fine job as the finance critic for the Conservative Party stickhandling through some very substantive issues. I will not comment on his skating skills, but his stickhandling on this particular subject has been tremendous. I am honoured to share my time with him.

As well, I would point out that the leader of the Conservative Party gave a very compelling critique of this budget pointing out its shortcomings, but at the same time recognizing that this is really a page out of the Conservative platform, albeit it does not go far enough. It does not move in a direction quickly enough as we would like to have seen.

It is symbolic of the fact that the Liberal government and the finance minister in particular have recognized the wisdom of the Conservative plan from the last election and have literally pulled much of the initiatives from the pages of that platform. The measures that we see in the budget just take some of the highlights of the Conservative plan.

The Liberals obviously look at the necessity of giving our military more in the way of equipment, more in the way of personnel, a pay raise for those hard-working men and women in uniform, yet much of this is going to be delayed.

In fact, I would describe this budget in many ways as a post-dated cheque. We are not going to see the actual impact of many of these initiatives for years to come, upwards of eight years, five years in many cases. Although the figures themselves seem enormous, when we start to delve into the detail, we find that much of this money will not be delivered on time and perhaps not at all.

What we see with the Liberal government is that much of the commitment goes beyond its mandate. It goes beyond the mandate of any government when it starts promising that these things are going to happen five years down the road. With the volatility of a minority government, it goes beyond arrogance to suggest that the Liberals can make these commitments with any surety.

The tax relief first and foremost that my colleague referred to is certainly meagre. He talks about it being a couple of cups of coffee at Tim Hortons; I would describe it more as a couple of happy meals, but people are not going to be very happy when they actually look at what their take home savings will be.

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12:35 p.m.


David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

And who voted for it?

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12:35 p.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, we have not voted for anything of course. I hear the chipmunks on the other side already chirping. I can see him shaking his head, and I can hear it rattling from here.

The budget promises huge spending commitments for a national day care system. Again, there is no detail put forward. It is much the same as we see with the commitments on the environment and climate change. There are big sums of money, big promises, yet there is no actual detail as to how this is going to be achieved, how this is going to actually benefit Canadians.

The tax breaks I have discussed already. Corporate taxes are reduced by 3% to 19%, but only by the year 2010. The tax cuts will not occur fast enough to ensure that Canadians will improve their standard of living in any near future.

There has been much made of the proposal for our military. Yes, it is a welcome step in the right direction. Previous members of the Conservative Party, previous defence critics, such as Elsie Wayne from Saint John, New Brunswick, for years went on and on about the need to give the military the necessary tools and support.

Since the Liberal government took office in 1993, I am quick to point out that it has cut $20 billion cumulatively from the Canadian Forces. This has left soldiers with aging and dangerous equipment, in some cases barefoot in the barracks as we heard last week from our current defence critic. The forces have been left with a lack of spare parts, a lack of overtime and abysmal living conditions. The list goes on and on.

At least this budget finally acknowledges some of the detriment and some of the harm that the Liberal government has wreaked itself. Yet the Liberals would like the country to stand up and applaud them for putting back a portion of the money that they took away. This is rather reminiscent of a pyromaniac returning to the scene of the crime and offering to help put out the fire. As the chief of the defence staff said a few weeks ago, this administration is responsible for the sorry state of the current military. It amounts to just putting back part of what was taken away.

Our suggestion is, yes, it is a step in the right direction. It is an acknowledgment of need, but the money is not going to come soon enough and it will not come in sufficient amounts.

The Senate committee on defence said that the forces would need at least a $4 billion influx of cash immediately. What we see in the budget is a promise over the long term. Much of it has already been announced, and we know the that money will come will be swallowed up quickly in terms of the commitments for personnel and for equipment.

The long-standing deficits as far as operation and maintenance are yet to be addressed. There is in fact zero money for some of the equipment in the next two years where it is most needed. We continue to make international commitments, yet our ability to protect and ensure that those who do this important work to get that type of equipment in the near future is negligible. The big money plan for the Liberals will not flow for another four to five years.

As Senator Colin Kenny in the other place said in his report of last year on the previous $800 million that had been promised to the military:

The vast majority of the promised capital money will not be spent for five years, or in the case of the Joint Support Ship, ten years. Experience has shown, however, that money promised frequently does not materialize.

That encapsulates much of the commitments that we see in this particular budget.

Before I move on to another issue, I want to talk a little about the state and the size of the DND cash requirement that will follow the international policy statement and the defence policy review. Members of the House will recall that that defence policy review has been promised since the 2002 throne speech, and it was reiterated again last fall. The minister has said that every month we review will be out of the next month. We are still waiting to see some of this implemented.

I would return to a related subject which deals with security and the promise of greater funding for security in this budget. Post-9/11, Canada has had to invest in security measures for counterterrorism, yet the two heads of CSIS, the past and present directors, have confirmed that it is not a question of if Canada will be attacked by terrorists, it is a question of when.

Over the next five years the government will spend another $1 billion overall on security and emergency preparedness initiatives as announced. However, despite the seriousness of global terrorism, the budget base for public security will increase by $170 million in the first year and roughly $200 million each year after. We are again seeing very meagre commitments to this very pressing concern.

The measures outlined in the budget seem to respond to the concerns that have been raised by the Conservative Party and others. In particular I am concerned about maritime airport and border security. This is an area that has been identified time and time again as Canada's most vulnerable point of entry and point of attack. Not to be alarmist, but if something contraband comes into Canada, this is the most likely point of entry. That leaves us vulnerable. There will be more funding allocated to enable container screening and the development of systems of automated targeted and sharing of information with the United States on high risk cargo destined for North America. Only 3% of the current cargo coming into Canada is subject to examination and inspection. Therefore, there is a pressing need in this area.

There will be no new funding for border security. The promise for increased personnel at our borders has been ignored again. Members will recall the tragedy of last year when a border agent in British Columbia, albeit of natural causes, who was working alone. This is the case in many of these single person border crossings.

There is also a recognition of the deplorable state of emergency management after the 9/11 crisis and attack. This has to be approached differently. Critical infrastructure needs to be protected.

These are all areas which arguably have been overlooked in terms of specific funding.

When I think about what could have been done for students, it is abominable that there is nothing in the budget that will provide any immediate relief for students.

My friend talked about the lack of attention to the agriculture sector. This is very true. Families, like the McCarron family from Antigonish, are left wondering what is in this budget for farmers, both east and west. This is an area completely overlooked.

It is the same with the fishery, another long-suffering area in our natural resource sector that was ignored by the budget. Places like Necum Teuch, Sheet Harbour in Guysborough and Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia are communities that are literally left wondering what is there for them in this budget. The modest reductions in income tax will not help working families to make ends meet.

Seniors, persons with disabilities and many Canadians are sorely disappointed that the government has with all that surplus and the opportunity done very little to give Canadians the type of relief and national pay raise they need

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February 24th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.


David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Central Nova for his presentation. He raised one area about which I have great concern, and that is the surpluses. A piece written by Greg Weston in the media this morning talked somewhat about this, in other words collect money now and then decide later how it will spend it.

Mr. Weston referred to the Auditor General criticizing a recent report of $9 billion being put into foundations. With this budget, there will be another $5 billion stashed away in surplus, and this will all be decided later. That is $14 billion which will be stashed away.

For health care, $4.2 billion will put in a wait-in-times reduction trust. For child care, $5 billion will put away. For defence strategy, $13 billion in defence will be put away, although the budget describes where some of it will go. However, we do not where the bulk of the money will go.

Should the ministers be given the discretion to spend this money without debate in the House?

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12:50 p.m.


Peter MacKay Conservative Central Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a good question and it goes to basic issues of accountability. In recent days we debated the issue of foundations, taking money from the public purse and allotting it to these areas that are beyond the scope and examination of the Auditor General or even Parliament.

Taking massive sums of money and in some cases massive surpluses from working Canadians, employers and employees and hiding it away from the discretion and examination of the public through Parliament and the officers of Parliament, undermines public confidence. Not only that, it takes a lot of money out of the economy that could be put to good use.

Time and again Conservatives have asserted that Canadians know how to spend their money better than government in most cases. We have seen so many examples of abuse, waste and mismanagement, be it the gun registry, the ad scandal, the HDRC program and the procurement of expensive luxury jets without tendering. Yet the government persists in taking away large sums of money, squirrelling and hiding it away from Canadians. Then in a very patronizing way, it suggests that it knows how to spend it better than taxpayers.