My friend across the way is sounding a little bitter and angry. However, I want members to know that RDI, which is a media outlet, an arm of the CBC, reported it would cost around $2 billion. If my friend takes issue with those figures, he should take that up with RDI.
I will also point to another situation where the government saw a problem and just threw money at it. I remember very well those shocking images on TV of young children who were stoned on gasoline at Davis Inlet. It was an awful thing. Prime Minister Chrétien, at the time, was shocked by it. We were all shocked. However, the government did not have a plan. It just took a lot of money and threw money at it. It said, “That is terrible. We have to deal with it”, and just threw money at it.
What happened? The government moved some 900 people from the community of Davis Inlet to another community a few miles away and gave them new housing. It cost $400,000 a person. Guess what? All of the problems went with them, not surprisingly. Again, that is what happens when we react without a plan and just throw money at things. All we do is create more problems. We do not get results.
What we have now is the government trying to hide from one vote-buying scandal in Quebec, the sponsorship scandal, and spending $4.6 billion to acquire the votes of NDP members in this place in the hope that it could hang on in a confidence motion.
I am worried that this same problem is being replicated all over again. There is real evidence for that. When we look at the bill itself, Bill C-48, what does it say? It does not say that money would go into specific programs, programs that are established today that we can scrutinize. It says that money shall be spent via order in council. It would be up to the cabinet to decide how to spend it. I worry about that. I guess as the opposition finance critic I should worry about it. It is my job.
However, Canadians should worry about that because this looks like another blatant attempt, initially, to get over a vote-buying scandal in Quebec and, second, to buy votes from the NDP. Now it looks like the government is going to use this to buy the votes of Canadians in order to support it in possibly an upcoming election.
I would urge Canadians to say no. This is our money. We know that there are other ways to spend this money. If we do not have good plans in place to spend it, then we should not spend it at all. Leave it in the pockets of homemakers, farmers, fishermen and the business people who create jobs in this country. They could use that money, very often, far more effectively than a bureaucrat or a politician. That is certainly my experience.
When I think about what we could do if we left some of this money in the pockets of taxpayers, I think of a family I know, who are goods friends of my wife and I, who have four kids and a modest income. Of course they want their children to go to university. Would it not be a great thing if they were allowed to keep, say, $1,000 extra every year because their taxes were a little bit lower and they were able to save that money to put into a fund for higher education for their children?
Maybe they have other priorities. Maybe they have children who have to go to the dentist. Maybe they have children who have extra needs medically. They could use the money for those things. My point is that parents know better than anybody else what is important to them and how to use that money. Believe it or not, they know more than bureaucrats and politicians about what is good for their family.
Simple decency requires that if the Liberals have no plan and if they are swimming in cash, then this money should be allowed to stay in the pockets of the people who earned it in the first place. That is just being decent.
The government has not skimped on spending. Spending has gone through the roof in the last number of years. Since 1997 and 1998 spending has gone up 50%, not including the February budget, and not including the $4.6 billion that is in Bill C-48.
I would argue that the government has spent more than enough money in the last number of years and now it is time for a substantial break for Canadians. Many friends across the way may say they are going to lower taxes in the budget for everyday Canadians. The tax break in the next tax year for Canadians amounts to $16. That is unbelievable.
There was no shortage of money for Liberal friends when it came to the sponsorship scandal. There were envelopes and suitcases of money for Liberal friends, for Liberal ad executives, and ultimately for the Liberal Party. What do the regular working people get? They get a $16 tax cut. That is shameful. That is ridiculous. That speaks volumes about the government's real priorities.
I want to speak about some of the myths that the government across the way has been perpetuating. I have heard members in this place say that if the budget does not pass then the offshore accord will not go through. Atlantic Canada in particular, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, will not get the money due to them as a result of the signing of the offshore accord. I want the House to know that a Conservative government would deliver that money as soon as humanly possible.
The member for St. John's East and the member for St. John's South--Mount Pearl have worked relentlessly to push the government to allow that piece of the budget, the offshore accord, to be split off, so it could pass through the House quickly and be delivered to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador right now. The government opposes it every time. Does the government really care about Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador? If it did, it would split that part of the bill off right now and get that money delivered to those people.
It bothers me as someone from Alberta, someone who comes from a province where at one point we received equalization at the same time as we were getting revenues from oil and gas. We on this side of the House had to fight hard to get the government to accept that point of view, and now it is playing politics with it. The government is now holding Newfoundland members of Parliament hostage on this issue, knowing that it could push this through right now if it wanted and get the money to Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, but it will not.
On the issue of the gas tax, some of my Liberal colleagues across the way, and frankly some of the big city mayors who basically may as well be a part of that caucus over there, are playing the same kinds of games. We have made it very clear many times that we would deliver gas tax revenues to the municipalities via the provinces to ensure that they could look after their infrastructure.
We made that case way before the government ever conceived of the idea. In fact, we moved a motion in this place some time ago calling for the government to do that. The government voted against the idea. Government members thought it was a crazy idea. Imagine taking the excise tax on fuel and giving it back to municipalities. That is basically what the government argued.
A few months later the then finance minister, now the Prime Minister, went to the FCM in British Columbia and argued that should be done. It is going ahead and doing it. Now Liberals are telling Canadians falsely that we would not deliver that. We would move heaven and earth to get that money to municipalities so they can look after their infrastructure. We know how important that is. It is very unfortunate that the government is telling people things that are not true about what our plan is. We absolutely would deliver that money.
I want to say a couple of words about some of the games the government is playing today with the fiscal framework. It was not very long ago that the finance minister argued how important it was to maintain a contingency reserve and prudence factor of $4 billion a year. He wanted to increase it by $1 billion a year going out over the next number of years because he was worried about uncertainty in the world. He was worried about the impact of things like terrorist attacks and what it would mean to our economy if those kinds of things occurred. We could go into a tailspin and it could mean that we could end up in a deficit again.
He was worried about the high cost of oil and what it would do to the world economy or the U.S. housing bubble. There were all kinds of uncertainties that the finance minister pointed to and said that it was essential the government have a big contingency and prudence factor. No sooner had those words quit echoing in this place, the Prime Minister was undermining his own finance minister saying that it really did not need $4 billion. It only really need $2 billion. He wanted so badly to strike the deal with the NDP that he was prepared to possibly sacrifice the financial well-being of 31 million Canadians. That is unforgivable and it is simply wrong.
It comes on top of sacrificing the well-being of all the people who would have had jobs if the government were serious about following through on its commitment to lower taxes for the large employers. However, it cast that out as well.
I am arguing that it is very cynical for the government to do this in the face of the sponsorship scandal. It was so desperate to hold on to a few more votes from the NDP that it completely caved in and threw all its principles out the window simply to cling to power. That is not acceptable.
I argue that if there is a party in Canada today that is standing up for families, seniors, small business people and people in businesses of all sizes who create jobs, it is the Conservative Party of Canada. Conservatives are opposing Bill C-48 because we think it imperils the ability of Canadians to have a bright future.
I will conclude with this. The most dangerous thing of all about Bill C-48 is how the government is trying to cover its tracks on sponsorship by buying votes in a way that I am afraid will drive federalists in Quebec into the arms of the separatists. Instead of dealing with the corruption problem head on, what the Liberals are continuing to do is allow federalism in Quebec to be tainted. By refusing to deal with this issue head on, they are breathing new life into the separatist movement in Quebec.
If this is allowed to go forward without dealing with the separatism issue and the corruption, it will be on the heads of the members of the Liberal Party of Canada if this causes the breakup of our country.