Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning to Bill C-43, the budget implementation bill. I am especially pleased to be able to speak the day after the Prime Minister's address to the nation.
This budget is consistent with the Prime Minister's address to the nation. In other words, this budget ignores the public interest, and it is based on the purely political interest of saving his own party. In fact, this budget is strategically designed as a campaign tool.
First, this budget totally ignores the priorities of Quebec. Implementing this budget would clearly contradict our own purpose, which is, first and foremost, to defend the interests of Quebeckers, who have given us the mandate to come here as a strong majority, in terms of members from Quebec.
Bill C-43 should have been an opportunity to make significant improvements to the budget. However, it includes initiatives we find unacceptable. It supports the agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia and, with regard to Kyoto, it sets out measures based on the polluter-paid principle, instead of the polluter-pay principle.
The minority Liberal government should have seized the opportunity presented by Bill C-43 to make real compromises and reflect on the political situation and the message it is getting from all across Canada about the changes that need to be made to government policies.
This morning, my remarks are intended, naturally, for the Liberal members. In particular, I want to warn them that they will take the fall, and even if the majority of the country does not want an election, one will be necessary given the position in which the government is putting the Canadian public.
I was saying earlier that Bill C-43, to implement the budget, is consistent with the Prime Minister's speech yesterday. Last night, the Prime Minister appealed to the nation. It was quite pathetic, because usually a national appeal is in the interests of the entire nation. This means that the head of state, in his official capacity, must speak from on high in the best interests of all Canadians and particularly, in this case, Quebeckers, given the serious damage inflicted on them by the Liberal Party as a result of the sponsorship scandal.
Yesterday, we would have expected the Prime Minister, rather than addressing the nation to ask it to save his party, to apologize for not doing something about the current situation in Canada. We would have also expected him to acknowledge that he was responsible in large part for that situation because, when the Prime Minister was the Minister of Finance and, thus, the custodian of public funds, cheating occurred on the other side of this House for many years. He should have acknowledged that he made a mistake not only by failing to watch more closely over those who were dipping into the fund, but also by withdrawing support from municipal infrastructure.
I am also referring to the Guaranteed Income Supplement and how the government simply decided to deny seniors information about their rights. Today, as a result, seniors are still owed $3.3 billion and the government is preventing that money from getting to them. Yet, these people are among those who need it the most. He should have apologized and said that the situation would be corrected.
In terms of infrastructure, he should have arranged to have measures in place to prevent municipalities from fighting over who wins the jackpot. He should have also acknowledged what we owe to seniors and give them back the money they are entitled to and put money back into the fund for social housing.
The government made these promises in the mid-1990s, and did not start financing these sectors again until 2001. He should have told the public last night that he was sorry, that he made a mistake and that he mismanaged things. He should have added that, effective immediately, since the money is available, he will make amends.
Families are owed a major apology, all of the families of Quebec and Canada, because of the Unemployment Insurance cheat, the $46 billion taken from it. The Prime Minister pulled off a David Copperfield style magic trick to make $46 billion disappear, and now he says this was virtual money and no longer exists. Yet that $46 billion had been accumulated by reducing benefits to the unemployed, even though they and their former employers had contributed to it.
Today, a mere 38% of them can hope to receive EI benefits if they end up unemployed. There ought to have been an apology and a commitment to put that money to its proper use. Instead we are being told today that the money does not exist and that it is all virtual.
Are these employee contributions to the EI fund, and the contributions by employers, who pay $1.40 for every $1 the employees contribute, virtual? Do they exist or do they not? That deduction on people's pay stubs, are we to understand that the government did not keep it? That it was returned? If that was the case, then it has gone somewhere. Into the party's fund? I hope not. So it must be somewhere.
This talk of virtual and non-existent money is tantamount to deceiving the public. The Prime Minister ought to have told us that last night, ought to have admitted that he had deceived us. Only then would he have gained any credibility. He ought to have made a commitment to put the money back into the fund. Then he would have been credible.
So where is that money? It is being used as a hidden tax in order to decrease the debt, although that burden must be assumed by the entire community and not just one part of it. It is even worse when the money diverted has a specific purpose at a time when people are losing jobs and in difficult situations. If they are impoverishing families in this way, is it surprising that there are so many poor people, so many children living in poverty in this country?
If there are children living in poverty, it is because there are parents living in poverty. If there are parents living in poverty, it is because certain people are passing measures to prevent them from receiving benefits after losing their jobs, despite having contributed their entire lives. It is an outrage and the Prime Minister should be ashamed. Why did he not mention this yesterday evening? He would have had credibility, had he done so. He would have been speaking in the interest of the country and of Quebeckers, too, who have taken the fall for him for the underhanded dealings and fishy business connected to the sponsorship scandal.
Tying the election to the Gomery commission means making Justice Gomery shoulder a burden that is not his to carry. It is the same as saying that, when he renders his decision and tables his report on all the testimony he has heard, he will be telling the public which way to vote. That is not the judge's responsibility.
The judiciary has nothing to do with politics. The issues raised by the sponsorship scandal are directly related to public interest. This is political. The Canadian public, and not Justice Gomery, has to make that decision as soon as possible, to stop these people from getting their sticky fingers on the cash.