Debates of Feb. 24th, 2005
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.
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Committees of the House
- Questions on the Order Paper
- The Budget
- Committees of the House
- The Budget
- Tom Patterson
- Employment Insurance
- Ukrainian Canadians
- Guaranteed Income Supplement
- The Budget
- Canada Post
- The Budget
- Tom Patterson
- The Budget
- Pope John Paul II
- The Budget
- National Defence
- The Budget
- National Defence
- The Budget
- National Defence
- Employment Insurance
- The Environment
- The Budget
- National Defence
- Canada Post
- The Budget
- Technology Partnerships Canada
- The Environment
- Senior Citizens
- Business of the House
- Points of Order
- Points Of Order
- The Budget
- Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Jack Layton 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.
Pierre Pettigrew Minister 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.
Alexa McDonough 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?
Pierre Pettigrew 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.
Kevin Sorenson 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.
Pierre Pettigrew 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.
Francine Lalonde 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.
Pierre Pettigrew 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.
February 24th, 2005 / 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:
February 23, 2005
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.
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.
Monte Solberg 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.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis 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?
Monte Solberg 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.
Myron Thompson 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.
Monte Solberg 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.