Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to discuss Bill C-48. At the same time, I am also sad with what has gone on. Through my presentation I will allude to that simply because we are given the opportunity once a week to go home to our ridings and gauge with our constituents, hear their views and comments, given the unusual circumstances that are unfolding here in this honourable chamber, and come back and work with our colleagues to see how we can positively move forward initiatives, efforts that the government brings forward for the betterment of our country, our people, our youth, our seniors and every other generation in between, so we can continue staying at the pinnacle where our country has been for many years.
As I said in the past, it is no coincidence that our country is recognized as one of the best countries in the world in which to live.
Today I will be speaking to Bill C-48 which proposes investments from unplanned surpluses. What this means primarily is that, as the Liberal government traditionally has done in the past, it looks to making the right kind of key investments within our Canadian society basically because Canada as a whole has been recognized and noted as a very different country, a compassionate, caring and giving country, a country that always comes to the calling and always stands up, whether it be domestically or internationally.
In past budgets the government has made significant investments in priority programs such as social programs. At the same time, this bill is simply an extension of what we traditionally have done in the past.
I will make two or three brief points of what this bill would do.
This bill, first, invests in, as I have put it in the past, the future of our country, which is our youth. In essence, it supports post-secondary education, post-secondary programs. What better investment can we make? We talk about staying competitive as a nation. We talk about creating a smart society. We talk about creating a society that is productive, peaceful, safe and secure. That is where this investment, I believe, would bear fruit.
Beyond that, what would it also do? It supports areas such as transportation, for which the cities, for example, have continuously asked us for support. We know very well that a strong city makes for a strong province and, as a result, makes for a strong country. We have that obligation.
Housing, which is important, is another element of Bill C-48. What best can families or individuals have, as we have often said, than a roof over their heads, which is the foundation of any safe society. This government, in its wisdom and in consultation with other parties, said that we must move forward on this issue and we are doing so.
Another area is our environment. If we do not look after the environment today, 10, 20, 30 years down the road we will be saying, “God, what mistakes. What did we do?” We hear how our health system is being impeded. We have an aging population. Any initiative toward protecting our environment is a great investment, and that is part of what Bill C-48 would do.
A nation is not only noted for what it does within its borders. A nation also gains respect by what it does outside its borders.
In Canada, historically speaking, Prime Minister Pearson did not receive the Nobel Peace Prize just because he was the prime minister of Canada. He received it because he stood above the rest. His initiatives then make us proud today as a nation.
We cannot just take one step forward and then take ten steps back. As difficult as it is sometimes, if we want to be international players, if I might use that word, we need to participate and there are different ways of participating. We can provide physical presence, which our proud military has done and performed so well over the years, but just being there is one aspect of it. There has to be financial support at the same time.
Bill C-48 in essence would do that as well. Our military has repeatedly said that if they are being asked to do a job and to put their lives at stake they need support and Bill C-48 would do that.
Our foreign aid contribution is toward our military. We have heard that over 300,000 people have lost their lives in Darfur. We cannot sit back and say that we do not care. We do care. Aside from caring, we talk about creating security for our nation. If we have nations that are hurting, rest assured that the hurt will be expressed in different ways, and generally it is not in a good way.
If we help these nations find peace, security, stability and economic development where their people can seek work that will give them the opportunity to provide food and shelter for their families, they then will have no need to go out and react in adverse ways which does harm to nations such as ours.
If we create a stable and secure environment in Darfur for example, or other hot spots, we would in essence create security for Canada. Those obligations are part of Bill C-48 as well.
As Bill C-48 unfolded we know the New Democratic Party was very supportive, and I believe it still is. Some very good proposals came from the New Democratic Party. It is said that in order to be a good healer one must be a good listener. The Prime Minister and this Liberal government has been listening. Maybe not all the proposes are good but surely some good can come out of listening and in this case a lot of good has come out of it, good that has been applauded by Canadians. I know because I hear about it in my riding.
Once a week, as I have said, we have the opportunity to go back to our ridings to be with our families and talk to our constituents. We receive calls, emails and letters. People in a free and democratic society, like the one we have in Canada, have the right to express their views, whether we agree or disagree is beside the point. Through Bill C-48, the message is very simple. We have listened and we have responded in the way the vast majority of Canadians want.
Another element I omitted, which is very important, is that Bill C-48 would enhance small and medium sized enterprises. When we first assumed government after the election of October 1993, we said that the engine that drives the economy is the small and medium sized enterprises. The bill contains tax reforms with respect to small and medium sized enterprises.
Larger corporations have benefits coming down the road, I believe slotted for 2008. It is not like it has just disappeared and we are only looking at one segment. Let us not forget that the vast majority of jobs have been created through the small and medium sized enterprises, and the government in Bill C-48 does that as well.
Now that I have talked a little bit about Bill C-48, I want to get into what is happening here. We have a moral obligation, if I may put it that way, to bring to this honourable chamber the views, frustrations, call it whatever, from our constituents.
In the past several weeks I have heard comments like, “God, it's like kindergarten all over again in that chamber. They are a bunch of rowdies, a bunch of grown up kids”. It makes me so sad and it hurts me to hear these comments. However I have to accept them because that is what is happening here in this honourable chamber.
One example is what happened last week when a motion was put in the House. The Leader of the Opposition, for some odd reason, did not get his way and he just got up and walked out. This reminds me of the bully on the street who comes out to play hockey and when he does not get his way he takes his ball, his net and he leaves.
That is not how we build a nation nor is it how we find compromise. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and they sit in this chamber and debate. Members stand up in the House and express their views if they want their constituents to know exactly what is going on.
Over the past several weeks people have said that Parliament is not functioning. People want Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 to move forward. There are great ideas in these bills. Bill C-43, which I will not get into, what a budget. It has been continuously applauded throughout the country. There was not one area that was not covered. Even in a small way tax relief was covered.
The reason tax relief was not covered, if I may remind my hon. colleague, is that in the 2000 budget the largest tax relief in the history of our country was put forward; a five year program of $100 billion. Today, in 2005, we are into the fifth year of that five year program. I say that it does not make sense to add another tax relief budget when this country is in the fifth year of that five year program.
This government has produced not only balanced budgets and eliminated the deficit way in advance, but we have provided seven consecutive balanced budgets. This is unheard of in the history of our country. This government has provided surpluses never heard of before. These surpluses have given us the opportunity to reinvest in the country. For example, the Romanow report, a very good report, not only did we meet that report and its request, but we exceeded that report and the expectations.
We have the cities agenda, need I say more. Supposedly $400 million was allocated in the last budget and that amount has been jacked up to $600 million. Why? It is because more money was there.
What did we do with it? We have no deficit and the debt has been reduced faster than anyone ever expected. I believe in 1993 the debt to GDP ratio was at 71% or 72% and today we are below 50%. It is projected that in the next four or five years it will be at 25% or 26%. No country out there can say that. In the G-7 we are the most advanced country in terms of job growth, surpluses and balanced budgets and we have the fastest growing economy. We have invested wisely in the new economy. We have invested in research chairs as no other country has done before.
We have these so-called clusters of excellence situated throughout the country. Universities have benefited tremendously. We have been able not only to retain the best and the brightest, but we have been able to attract the best and the brightest.
I remember visiting the Hospital for Sick Children a couple of years ago when I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of industry in relation to an investment that we made in cancer research for youth. A highly regarded specialist from England was there and I asked him why he came to Canada. He said that it was because the best was here. He said that the government had invested, that we were on the right track and that as a professional it was here that he could do better work.
We often do not talk about these stories but the time has come to talk about these stories and really call a spade a spade.
Today we find ourselves in the very unusual situation where we come with great interest in this House to debate. Yes, we will argue with the opposition. Yes, we will debate. Yes, the temperature gets a little bit high. The nature of this environment is that we yell and scream sometimes in frustration.
I apologize for that to Canadians and to my constituents, but we only experience what we do because we are in this chamber. When we have so-called immunity, we are protected in the House and we say what we want to say and get away with it. Who are we really hurting? We are hurting the average Canadian and that is the sad part about it.
Let me give one example, if I may. The other day I was watching a news program on CBC. The member for Calgary Centre-North was on the tube and he had the audacity again to say that his constituents wanted an election. He was being intellectually dishonest by saying that because he was on the tube a week before that when the House was in recess. He went home, supposedly, to gauge his constituents and to determine if they wanted an election. The first thing that was shown on television was the hon. member unpacking and setting up his campaign office. The reporter asked him what he was doing because he was supposedly there to gauge his constituents and to get a sense of what they wanted him to do.
We have often been told by members of the opposition, the new Conservative Party, that they will represent their constituents, and say and do what their constituents want them to do. The hon. member went home and opened up a campaign office. What did he do then? He went out on the street to canvass his constituents about the election and 9 out of 10 constituents told him, on television, that they did not want an election. They did not want another $350 million wasted for an election that is not necessary. The 10th constituent did not really care because he or she was probably turned off. The hon. member then came back to the chamber and said that his constituents wanted us to have an election. That is malarkey. I dare the Conservative Party to go back and look at exactly what happened that day.
I have to get back to the bill because there is important stuff here. The transport critic made a comment. He is a good friend of mine who worked very well on committee. Look what we have done on reducing rents at airports. We see that things are different and times have changed. We are trying to accommodate, we are trying to help out, and we are trying to make things work. That is the problem.
We have been trying to get to the bill for a long time. I have been trying to get on my feet to talk about the bill for a long time. What do opposition members do? They interrupt proceedings and shut the House down.
This reminds me of a saying that the future is always affected by the past. Let us go back in history for a moment on a bill like this and what happened? We had an unholy alliance before this one. We had Mr. Mulroney, who was in cahoots with the separatists to form government. What happened? We had the birth of the Reform Party to break up the country. We have now gone full cycle and the Reform came together and kicked out the Conservatives. It is now in bed with the Bloc Québécois and all of a sudden, the country simply is not working. We have been asking for weeks to put forth Bill C-48 and we cannot do it.
The bill wants to work. The budget has so many good things in it. I have talked to students who told me they want a good education because they deserve a good education.
I ask the opposition and all members in the House to do the right thing for the good of our youth, the environment, housing, cities, and for the good of the country. These investments make sense, especially when members agreed to support the budget bill, Bill C-43.
If they support Bill C-43, there is no reason why they cannot support Bill C-48, simply because Bill C-48 has what I alluded to a couple of minutes ago. If they come back and say they do not want to support Bill C-48, they are saying they are not supporting our youth, transportation and the environment. That is what they are saying.
Therefore, I move:
That this question be now put.