Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to speak to the Conservative Party's opposition motion, which reads as follows:
That the House call upon the government to immediately extend the expanded benefits of the recent Atlantic Accord to all of the provinces since the existing equalization claw-back on non-renewable resource revenues severely curtails the future prosperity of Canada by punishing the regions where the economy is built on a non-renewable resource base.
My colleague from Dartmouth, who just spoke, was praising the fine work done by the Liberals in Canada, especially here in Parliament. I think that he has forgotten to watch television, CPAC, and the whole sponsorship program scandal. That is the fine work that the Liberals have done, and I think that it leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of Canadians. We should remember that now.
However, when we look at the Atlantic Accord with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, it is as if we agreed with that. Am I forced to agree with him when we know that there are some regions that have suffered?
When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, people from there said that Canada joined Newfoundland. Newfoundland joined Canada with all its resources from fishing and the sea, for example, but what we see today is that many people have been forced to leave Newfoundland and Labrador and live elsewhere in the country. They can be found all over, in my province of New Brunswick, in Nova Scotia, in Ontario, in Manitoba, in Saskatchewan, in Alberta and even in the Northwest Territories. Many of these people had to leave the province to go and work in the mines of the Far North, in the Northwest Territories.
Nowadays these provinces have suffered a loss of their resources and now, a loss of jobs. Take an example, my region of Acadie—Bathurst, where we have non-renewable resources. Another example is regions where there are mines and the resources are not renewable. The Brunswick mine is going to close in 2009 and more than 1,000 people will lose their jobs.
I can confirm that these provinces are affected by transfer payments and equalization. The Liberal government cannot claim it did a good job when it knows that it is swimming in surpluses. For example, the Liberals can say, “We balanced the budget; there is a zero deficit”. However, there will be a $12 billion surplus and a budget that will only be implemented later. When we take a closer look, we see the Liberal budget provides funding for 2009, 2010 and 2012. There will be surpluses between now and then. Who will get this money? The Liberals' friends, the big banks will. The bankers will go to bed happy but, in the meantime, people will suffer. The deficit in the Liberal government is a human deficit. The people are the ones suffering.
In 1994, there were cuts to health care and we are still paying the price. There are people sleeping in hospital corridors and some of them are even dying there.
How can the member for Dartmouth boast that the Liberal Party is one of the great parties that did such a good job of managing this country, when the Liberal government is the one destroying our hospitals. That is the situation. The member said earlier that it takes money to attract doctors to the regions, but the Liberals are the ones who created this problem in 1994, under the finance minister, who is now Prime Minister. The people in the regions are suffering.
Our students finish university with $40,000 in debts. The Liberal and Conservative governments created this problem. They drove our students into debt. Today, the students are suffering. Young women and men come to our offices and they ask us to take away their student debt because they can no longer make the payments.
Today, this motion may give some hope to these provinces, provinces with natural resources who could lose them. Mines are another example of non-renewable resources.
It is the same thing with oil in Saskatchewan. When their oil wells are finished, that is it. It is not a renewable resource. What would they get in its place?
Today we have a federal government with a surplus. It is all very well to boast of having a surplus, having a zero deficit, having balanced the budget, but when that has been accomplished on the backs of the people, as it has by the Liberal government, it is disgraceful.
Can the Liberals boast about having a $46 billion surplus in the EI fund? They have balanced their budget and achieved their zero deficit thanks to employment insurance, on the backs of workers who have lost their jobs. These people have spent their last cent, have lost their jobs and have nothing left for their future.
That is what the Liberals have done. That is why some provinces are now saying that they want what the government has done for Newfoundland and Labrador, and for Nova Scotia. They want to be able to benefit from the federal government's surplus.
Things have reached the stage where regional municipalities can no longer afford the infrastructures that they need. The federal government has a huge surplus.
I will give one example. Reference has been made to the one-third, one-third, one-third agreements. In the Bathurst region, for instance, it will take $10 million to install water and sewer lines in two streets. The federal government will put in $2 million, the provincial another $2 million, and the municipality $6 million. The municipalities have been the ones hardest hit by the cuts.
This is why it would be worthwhile to be able to take advantage of equalization. Where there are non-renewable industries, there should be a possibility of accessing the surplus or giving it to the provinces so that they may meet their needs.
There are no young people left in our regions. They have all left forever. They go away to university, here in Ottawa, or in Montreal or somewhere else, and they never come back home because there are no jobs, just as there are none in Gaspé. That is what is happening.
It is shameful to see a government say that it has managed its finances well, when it has done so on the backs of the people. I know that people would not like it, but all that we could do is to tell people in the big urban centres, where the unemployment rate is maybe 4.5%, to come to our region where the rate is 20.5%. That is the reality.
In the Gaspé, the unemployment rate is 20%. Even in big cities like Toronto, you can see lots of people now who did not used to be there. The government should not be proud of that. You did not use to see people lying on pieces of cardboard in front of Toronto's city hall. You do now. It is terrible to see people sleeping in the street.
This is terrible to see and the government is going to boast that it has done a good job of running our country. When you used to go to Montreal, there was not someone every ten feet asking for money because he or she was poor. This is what they have created, poverty. It is certainly nothing to be proud of.
There could be a trade-off for natural resources. I am sure that the money will help Newfoundland and Labrador. It will also help Nova Scotia. At the same time, it is needed in New Brunswick, in the potash mines for example, in Sussex.
If these mines close, what will be left for the Sussex region? What will there be in Bathurst too when Noranda closes its doors in 2009? What kind of money will the province have to make investments and build infrastructure to create jobs so that people can stay in their own region, and be proud to do so. It is not easy when families break up and are forced to leave. It is not because they want to leave; they have to.
We are going to support this motion. However, there is one thing that we want, and that is for the federal government to sit down with the provinces. This is 2005 and things have changed. This is no longer 1957. Things have changed.
We must recognize the problems of the different regions and be able to find solutions, or identify the problems of the different provinces and be able to help them. The answer is not to take a piecemeal approach, as is currently being done, or to sit down with the provinces individually. It must be possible to sit down with all the provinces and find a solution to this problem.
For now, the NDP will support this motion. However, more needs to be done. Although the motion sends a message to the federal government, more needs to be done to resolve this problem, because it is a very real one. We cannot just change, turn around and blame the government. There are problems that come with this. Problems related to health exist in all the provinces. Just look at the hospital closures. At home in Caraquet the hospital closure has divided the entire Acadian Peninsula region. It has reached the point where some people are no longer talking to each other.
That is what the government has accomplished with its budget cuts. People are no longer talking to each other in the regions. There cannot be any economic development without communication. This is what the government has achieved with its budget cuts and yet it brags about its surpluses. It should spend the extra money on helping people. The money should be invested in social programs. That would help Canadians and seniors.
A woman phoned me today. This story may strike you as odd, but it has to do with a 65-year-old woman. I find it shameful that a woman that age called me today to say that she is unable to pay for the ball bearings for the wheels of her wheelchair and therefore she can no longer use her chair. This woman, who is short of money, cannot even get the help she needs for this. This woman is unable to walk and she is confined to a wheelchair that does not even work. It has come to this.
Today, the Liberals have nothing to brag about. They should be ashamed to speak in the House of Commons and brag that they have done something good for Canada, especially when we look at the sponsorship scandal. That is where the money has gone and Canadians are paying for it.