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House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Russ Powers Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in short, the answer is no, I personally cannot guarantee that we will not do that.

The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River and I were part of the consultation group with regard to asking that this be taken away. As national vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities I chaired its environmental issues committee. We were one of the groups that was consulted widely with regard to the impact of this particular terminology.

We, like all the others alluded to by the hon. member on the other side, indicated that it caused major angst. Whether it was the large producers of oil and gas, natural gas or the municipalities, everyone had major angst with regard to the interpretation of that word.

I do not believe it was a hidden agenda that was laid out by the government of the day that introduced it. I have a feeling that as things evolved it was offered with the best intentions, but as things have turned out, the interpretation is what needs to be clarified. The fact that it is being removed clearly is in response to the concerns raised by the organizations he is concerned about.

My involvement with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities was specifically with regard to the incorporation of road salts. As a municipal organization involved in ensuring the safety components and the ability to move people from place to place, it was a major concern. For that reason it is logical that “toxic” should be removed.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to speak to Bill C-43 and to talk about some of the things that are important to Canadians with regard to this budget. We want to make sure that there is some stability in this country. Moving forward on this budget is important. If a potential election is looming, this country should at least have a budget before that. The New Democrats have been working on Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, the amendments that we proposed, to make sure that Canadians do not go without a budget.

I want to touch on a couple of topics. One of them is a specific reference to students.

My constituency of Windsor West has thousands of students because of our great St. Clair College of applied arts and technology and the University of Windsor. Those two institutions have been at the forefront of training and educational opportunities for young people. Those institutions have been important not only to the growth of their students' knowledge in specific areas related to the arts and humanities but also in terms of training. One example would be with respect to the automotive industry, through research and development at CARE, the Centre for Automotive Research and Excellence. St. Clair College has specific programs, such as the Ford Centre for Excellence.

Students have been moving successfully through a process to obtain skills and abilities that lead the way to ensuring that our auto industry has trained professionals that will contribute very much to the economy in the short term, but also in the long term to be progressive with some of the newer technologies. The automotive industry is the single most important industry that contributes to the coffers of this nation. It also provides stable employment for thousands of people across the country, be it through the initial manufacturing and assembly process or through servicing the vehicles later on. We need to protect that stable economic pillar of Canada.

The two budget bills, Bill C-43, now amended through Bill C-48, are not perfect by any means. Certain things give me some concern. There are some things that are being done now but not to the degree that I would have wished. However, it is a better budget . I will be supporting it because the students at the university and the college in my riding will be receiving some type of an offset in terms of tuition. This is a very important part of our future progress.

The government has downloaded educational costs over the last 12 years to students. Not only does it affect them, but it affects the country because literally, students are leaving post-secondary institutions with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. They are also graduating later in life. Not having the opportunity to start their careers earlier leads to a couple of problems. When they leave university with such massive debts, they are not likely to purchase vehicles and other manufactured goods, and they are not able to purchase new homes or renovate old homes. Servicing such massive debts is a major burden for them.

It also hampers something else which I think is overlooked. They leave school later and therefore, they start their families later in life. For example, my wife and I wanted to service our debts first. We decided to wait a little longer before starting a family. Many delay having their families. The consequence sometimes is there are smaller families because people do not start them until later in life.

One thing which young people face today and which is a major shift and is really critical is that they have less pensionable earning years. They are servicing these massive debts in their late twenties and it is taking them until their mid-thirties to erase those debts. They are delaying purchasing things, whether it be a car, a house or other things they need because they are paying massive interest. They are delaying economic growth. Their pensionable earnings are condensed because of the current types of employment. Getting a pension is very difficult and having the same job over one's life cycle now is more difficult.

The colleges and universities in my community are setting up programs and services that will allow people to go back to school and upgrade their skills and abilities. Previously more support was given to individuals to get those skills and abilities through their employer or through some type of program training. This is now being put on the backs of students again. Having student relief in the budget is important. The last 12 years have been extremely negative in terms of our educational system by placing the entire burden on the backs of students.

People in my constituency are giving up on some career and educational opportunities because they do not want that type of burden placed upon them. As a result we are eliminating some of the new people we need to contribute to our economy.

We can apply the same thing to the automotive industry. Newer technologies are out there now and our party has been pushing for a green auto strategy, something that David Suzuki has supported. We have proposed a number of different positive initiatives that would get newer vehicles on the road.

The government has claimed that this budget is a green budget. It is certainly an improvement but I think more could be done. One of the things we could do to clean up our environment would be to get some of the older vehicles off the road. This would not only be good for the environment, but it would be good for the automotive industry itself.

Older vehicles, even though they could be compact cars, often have higher emissions than some of the newer vehicles on the road today. This is a result of the different standards that are in place now and the way they operate. Getting those newer vehicles on the road would improve our environment. We need to ensure that the government's commitment to the automotive industry is stronger.

This budget is a good step toward giving students some basic relief. Students delay purchasing vehicles because they are servicing a massive debt load. Constituents have told me they would like to purchase some things but cannot afford to because of the financial burden they are facing. That financial burden gets worse as people go to the next level of post-secondary education where they are looking at graduate degrees or looking at specific training because they already have their under-graduate degree.

In terms of continuing to expect people to have a higher degree of education and to have the skills and abilities required for the workforce, we were faced with the issue of putting the entire burden on them. I think this budget is the first step in the right direction.

I hope the government takes my message strongly that other industrialized nations have been reducing the cost of tuition. In fact, some countries actually do not have tuition fees, which is what we could do here in Canada. The issue is not always about how much money is actually put into a budget.

One of the things I would like to see changed is the policy relating to interest rates on student debt. Why is it that an individual can get a car loan or a couch loan at a lower rate of interest than a student loan? This predatory practice of having high interest rates on student debt is something that could be adjusted and it would be very worthwhile. It would generate that income back into the economy and allow people to pay off their debt quicker as opposed to the predatory basis of having them borrow money and the government making a profit off the backs of individuals who want to improve their educational and vocational stature.

I will be supporting this budget. It is the first step of many toward ensuring that our young people leave college and university with a lower debt load while at the same time having the skills and abilities necessary to make Canada a competitive nation for the upcoming challenges.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I imagine members of the NDP are probably doing a little gloating these days considering they somehow made a deal with the Liberals to include an extra $4.8 billion into the budget on items that are somewhere off in the future. Much of the increased spending that was in the NDP induced budget will in fact not kick in for another year or year and a half.

Given the history of the Liberal government of making promises and not keeping them, going right back to 1993 in the infamous red book, which I think made something like 21 or 22 promises that were not kept, and given the performance of the government over the last 12 years of making billion dollar promises just before an election or before a crisis in the party, how on earth can that member or any member of the NDP have any confidence that the Liberals will keep their promise?

Members of the NDP have to be pretty naive to believe what the Liberals are saying today given their record over the last 12 years of breaking promises.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of trust is really being flushed out with the member for Newmarket—Aurora. At least as New Democrats we negotiated a deal as a party position under what we stood for as Canadians but Conservative members are now crossing the floor to join cabinet positions. We stand by our principles in terms of the things that we fought for at election time to make a better Canada. We are very pleased with what Bill C-48 does.

The fact is that this is a better balanced budget and it is also one that is very reasonable. We were very pleased, for example, to take the opportunity to extract corporate tax cuts to the largest corporations and redirecting that elsewhere. We think it will be very successful for the economy. For example, we think there will be a housing boom for many of the different construction industries. We do know that many people need affordable housing which will then put that money back into the system as opposed to having to pay rent at a higher level which makes it difficult for them to be able to sustain families. We believe it is very much a family issue.

The government has historically over the last 12 years, via major surpluses, underestimated the budget, so we are quite confident. Our party did due diligence with different economists, those in the party system and outside of our party system, to ensure what we were doing was reasonable and was achievable. That is something that we believe will see fruition and that is important for Canadians.

When we went to the break week, while the leader of the official opposition said that he would talk to Canadians about whether to go to an election and then consider voting against the budget because his party did not vote against it when it first came forward, we did not sit around and wait to see whether the Conservatives and the Bloc would team up to bring this country to an election or, alternatively, live with a bad budget. We voted against it because we believed it did not represent the views of our constituents.

We sought to make changes to make Parliament work. We negotiated something that is of benefit to Canadians, something that makes me comfortable as an individual and something that is above board. We did not do it in a way that was disrespectful of the House. When we came back from the break we had a position that we could now support. As New Democrats, that was better than sitting around waiting to see if the other parties would bring this to an election or have to eat a budget that did not suit the needs of Canadians.

This budget still has a lot of holes in it and is not as good as we would like it to be but it is balanced and fair. It is a compromise for some of the things that we have asked Canadians to support us on. We will be proud to hopefully get those achievements into our communities to have a better Canada for all of us.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have a number of very serious concerns relating to the budgeting process and the budgeting track upon which the government is now set.

When the budget itself was first introduced the record shows very clearly that we took a look at it and made a decision at that point because it contained some things which we felt would be positive, some things that we as opposition members had suggested, that we would not go for a non-confidence motion at that point on the budget as presented.

Things have changed radically since the Prime Minister introduced that budget and he has now embarked on a process that is ad hoc, add on and ad absurdum. It goes to the point of absurdity. No plan is in place. Nothing is more dangerous than a Liberal with a bunch of money in one hand and no plan in the other. That is a recipe for disaster.

We have seen that constantly in fund after fund. Whether we are talking about the billion dollar boondoggle at HRDC or the horrendous $2 billion disaster in the gun registry, it does not matter. Whatever the Liberals get their hands on, if there is not a strict regime overlaying the dollars in their hands, we have a run-away wreck.

Certainly we are seeing that, without a doubt, in the sponsorship scandal. We have also seen it reflected in report after report from our various auditors general. The question that they ask more often than not of the Liberal government, not just our present Auditor General but a former one, is: who is minding the store? The Liberals are out of control when it comes to spending. They panic when it comes to possibly losing a vote here and there and, in this particular budget process, it is very important to acknowledge what the Prime Minister has done.

In abject fear of losing any kind of vote in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister has taken $4.6 billion and he hopes he has purchased 19 NDP votes. That is about $3.5 billion more expensive than what the Liberals were doing with the sponsorship plan in trying to buy a few more votes than that in Quebec. That will go down in history as the most expensive vote buying plan ever seen in a democracy anywhere.

There are serious problems with the approach that the Liberals are taking. What they should have done is they should have brought in three separate bills so that we in the House could have analyzed one in a proper and mature fashion and done it in a way that would have given confidence to Canadians, that Canadians in different parts of the country with different issues and concerns would know and have a sense that we are looking at their concerns.

One part of this particular budgetary approach should have looked at the Atlantic accord separately. Clearly, the Kyoto measures should have required a separate look and separate distinction, and it should have included traditional budget measures.

With regard to Kyoto, all of us want clean air and clean water for ourselves, for our children and for our grandchildren for hundreds of years to come, and there are ways that can be assured even in the budget.

For close to 10 years we have asked the Liberals to please bring forward a plan so we can understand how the Kyoto measures are to be enacted and arrived at. There never has been a plan, just grandiose verbosity and suggestions that ultimately it would be very expensive.

When it comes to Kyoto, the argument is not the environment or jobs. In fact, there is a way to approach this in which we can ensure the integrity and the purity of our environment and also maintain economic strength in our country. Therefore we continue to press the government on what exactly the plan is relating to Kyoto.

We finally got a plan several days ago. Bringing it down to its core elements, the Liberals' approach to Kyoto is this: take taxpayer money, which they do very well, and give it to jurisdictions such as China, which is not a part of Kyoto and is operating in a substandard way in terms of the environment, pay communist China with Canadian taxpayers' money to continue to subvert the Kyoto process, and at the same time allow Canadian companies to deliver substandard regulatory processes themselves.

That is not the way to show respect for the environment or respect for taxpayers. In fact, the government's plan on Kyoto rewards pollution pirates in other countries with Canadian taxpayer dollars. That is not the way to do it. This should have come in separately so that we could have had a full discussion on it.

As far as the Atlantic accord is concerned, again it is this whole notion of extortion that the federal Liberals seem to embrace when it comes to taxpayer dollars. They take money from taxpayers and then use subtle forms of extortion to give them back a bit so that we as taxpayers then shiver in concern that we might not have our basic needs met and are forced to think about voting for the federal Liberals just to get back a tiny portion of what they extorted from us.

Certainly this is what the federal Liberals are doing to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia, in effect holding them hostage by linking the Atlantic accord provisions in such a way as to say that if their flawed budget process and bill do not pass, the people in Atlantic Canada will suffer. Members can get out a thesaurus if they like; there are other words for that approach, but I am sticking to the word extortion, that is, using fear to extract dollars from people for a particular goal. That is not the way to respect and to show respect for Atlantic Canadians.

This budget process upon which the Liberals have now embarked should have entailed a separate approach to the Atlantic accord. Why would they not do that? Why would they not bring the Atlantic accord here?

This is why I think they would not do it. The Liberals do not want Atlantic Canadians to see that in fact it is Conservative members of this caucus who have articulated the strengths of and the things that are necessary in the Atlantic accord, which we have said we will support. The Conservative members have been very clear about that. They will support absolutely the provisions of the Atlantic accord, because most of them are ideas which those Conservative MPs from Atlantic Canada, from Newfoundland and Labrador and from Nova Scotia and other areas brought forward.

It is those MPs who brought forward these notions about how to make Atlantic Canada strong and prosperous. I think the federal Liberals do not want that exposed. As they usually do, they take our good ideas, dress them up just a little differently, call them their own and then tell people to vote for our ideas dressed in their clothing.

The Atlantic accord provisions should have been brought in separately.

Then, in terms of the budget process itself, it was fascinating in the last election to watch where the Liberals, true to form, campaigned against many of the things that we wanted to see and which they said would never work. Then, when they did their nightly polling--because a Liberal cannot go to bed at night without polling to see if he or she should be sleeping or not--they thought, “Oh my goodness. These things the Conservatives are proposing would be good for Canadians and Canadians like them”.

So now they are coming back and again taking our ideas and putting them in their budget, or trying to, with half steps and half measures. They are trying to pretend, with some mediocre and substandard tax cuts, that they actually care about hard-working people. It is a tremendous camouflage, like a wolf in sheep's clothing, and unfortunately some Canadians may be misguided by it.

I will bring my remarks to a conclusion by saying that when the budget first came in, we did not oppose it. Now the Liberals have drastically and in a panic changed it and that is a recipe for financial disaster. The present Prime Minister, the former finance minister, likes to rest on what is now an increasingly shaky legacy of having dealt with the deficit 10 years ago. He dealt with the deficit by slashing health care by 36% overnight. That is mainly how he did it, but now he is abandoning even that notion of some kind of fiscal restraint.

He has thrown everything to the wind in this budget process and has come up with $4.6 billion to buy 19 votes. That is not the way to handle the taxpayer money of this country. These notions that I talked about, these three separate areas, should be brought in here separately so that each could be debated and supported on its own measures. That would be true fiscal accountability for the people of Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is particularly appropriate that the member for Okanagan—Coquihalla is speaking on the budget bill given his experience in provincial politics as a provincial cabinet minister and in the area of finance in the Alberta government.

I have a question that the member could help me with. Over the last 23 or 24 days since the infamous deal was made between the NDP and the Liberals and since the 2005 budget in February, it appears to me that there have promises made for somewhere in the neighbourhood of $23 billion or $24 billion in increased spending. The Liberals are saying they are able to do this because of the unplanned surpluses they have suddenly found.

If unplanned surpluses become unplanned shortages, what happens to all these promises? Is it the Liberals' intention to say some day down the road in the very near future, if they hang around, that they have unplanned shortages so those promises cannot be kept? How drastically does this $23 billion or $24 billion affect the normal operation of government, given prudence in a budget? How dramatic an effect could it have on these promises they have made if the revenue comes in, unplanned, at far lower than they are saying it could?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

As usual, Mr. Speaker, the insights of my colleague from Cariboo—Prince George are incisive on this point.

Let me point out what happens when one departs from one's budget as radically as the Prime Minister has from his. I have tabled a number of budgets, each in the multi-billions of dollars, and I know what it is to budget for the ship of state, whether it is the federal or provincial ship of state.

We can compare it to a large tanker out on the ocean. It takes a lot to turn it, and once we start to turn it just a few degrees it does not seem like much at the start, but the shift becomes monumental. The effects can be devastating when that ship of state runs aground on the rocky shores of bad planning. The environmental spill of poor financial planning wreaks havoc on the environment in which we live. The federal ship of state is headed for the rocky shoals because the person at the helm, in a panic, is starting to turn the wheel. That becomes devastating.

There is a case in point here. The member from Cariboo—Prince George has pointed out something interesting. In 22 days, the Prime Minister has blown a $23 billion hole in the budget. That is over $1.1 billion a day in announced spending. I heard one Liberal say last night that it was not $1.1 billion a day but only $1 billion a day. Let me note that a billion dollars a day is a lot of money.

As a provincial finance minister, I sat around the financial table with the present Prime Minister when he was the finance minister. We sat around that planning table with other provincial finance ministers and territorial ministers. The current Prime Minister was sitting at the head of that table as federal finance minister. When we asked for more funding for health care, for instance, funding which he had taken away from the provinces, he would say, “We cannot change the budget. We cannot do that”.

I can remember him saying that one could not, just because of pressure, announce a $1 billion or $2 billion shift in the budget, but because of pressure he himself has now announced a $23 billion change.

I have a final point in terms of my observations from around the finance ministers table. When we used to question him about provincial funds, and we have a variety of them, he knew every dollar amount. He knew how they flowed and to whom they flowed. If he did not have the answer right then, he would go to his officials sitting beside him.

Thus, for him to say today that he does not know anything about that sponsorship fund when he presided over it for 10 years is a terrible stretch of credibility. It undermines the whole budget process that we are looking at today.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion LiberalMinister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, this morning I met with representatives from a company.

It is an aboriginal company that specializes in waste management and waste water treatment. This company claims that it has the expertise to address the problems created by municipal solid waste, through total combustion at extreme temperatures, in a way that reduces operating costs for industries, eliminates the development of new enormous landfill sites, creates no greenhouse gas emissions in doing it, reduces existing large landfill sites and reduces groundwater and atmospheric pollution, all of this in a way that will generate electricity.

I have been Minister of the Environment since last July and not a week has gone by without my meeting with representatives of companies like this that have capacities to offer Canada that we can only dream of. According to what they tell me, however, companies need assistance in the beginning to get their initiatives going. In order to succeed, they need help from the Government of Canada. However, there is no program for these companies, each of which is developing its capacities through different initiatives. Creating a program for every initiative would result in huge bureaucratic paralysis.

Instead of that, the climate change plan which we just launched and whose implementation depends on the vote on this budget provides for the creation of a climate fund. The Government of Canada is prepared to invest $1 billion in it, beginning with this budget—an amount that will increase with following budgets until 2012, for a total of $4 billion. This climate fund will make it possible for all these companies with new ideas to find funding if they manage to reduce greenhouse gases in the municipal, industrial or residential spheres.

It will be a cash for tonne project. It will be completely revolutionary. We need it. Canada needs it. If we do this, we will not recognize our country in 2012 because we will have improved our country in so many files. It will be spectacular. This is the tool Canada needs and it depends on the vote on this budget: no budget, no climate fund, and no climate fund, none of the spectacular changes we need.

In the climate change plan that we announced, there is a list of the possibilities that this climate fund could provide for all the following stakeholders:

farmers who adopt low till or zero till practices;

forestry companies that engage in state-of-the-art forest management practices;

property developers that include district heating and renewable energy elements in their plans for new subdivisions;

businesses that develop innovative ways to reduce emissions through recycling and energy efficiency;

companies and municipalities that invest in their communities by encouraging alternative transportation modes;

municipalities that capture landfill gas and use it to generate electricity—

I could also mention university presidents who want to encourage their students to take the bus by giving them free “eco passes”, and so forth. There are boundless possibilities when one thinks of all the Canadians who could find essential assistance thanks to this climate fund.

Only for this climate fund we need this budget, but there are so many other examples. When we speak about this budget, let us note that it is the greenest one since Confederation. That shows how, through this budget, we will be able to bring the environment and the economy together.

This budget does more than invest $5.2 billion, including $3 billion in new funding, in the federal environmental policy. It will transform our economy and make Canada a leader in the sustainable economy.

Let me give members the list of the things we need to have through this budget. We need $40 million for improving the ecological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem and $85 million for a strategy to combat invasive alien species, such as the sea lamprey, the zebra mussel and the Asian longhorned beetle. The budget devotes $28 million to the first phase of the government's oceans action plan, and $269 million in additional and much needed funds will go to our national parks.

With regard to science, the budget sets aside $60 million for geographic information, $111 million is devoted to the development of a new generation of remote radar sensing satellites, and $200 million is allocated to the development of a sustainable energy, science and technology strategy.

In my opinion, the $5 billion in gas tax revenue that the Government of Canada will transfer to the municipalities in order to ensure to the sustainable development of our communities is essential.

This transfer targets support for environmentally sustainable infrastructure projects such as public transit, water, waste water treatment, community energy systems and the handling of solid waste.

Furthermore, in cooperation with the NDP—they are not here but they are in agreement—we have set aside $800 million to further develop public transportation.

Added to the $300 million the budget invested in the green response fund, this new deal for cities and communities is itself a green plan.

We have allocated $90 million to Health Canada in order to help identify harmful substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

In addition to the climate fund, we have devoted $4 billion, on which $2 billion is new money to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. I want to mention especially an additional $225 million that will help quadruple the number of households that take advantage of the very popular EnerGuide for homes retrofit incentives program.

I want also to mention that in the budget we have a strong push for clean, renewable energy that will be encouraged, solar, wind power, renewable energy such as small hydro, biomass and landfill gas. We will invest $1 billion to help them to be more competitive in the market and we will submit also through the climate fund. It will be a great push. The list is so long.

I also want to mention $2 billion to $3 billion for the partnership fund, the fund that will help us to work with the provinces, which have so many leverages regarding the energy policy, to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. This one is aimed at helping the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments to co-finance their common priorities with regard to climate change. It is not hard to imagine many projects with clear environmental and economic benefits. The provinces have applauded the partnership fund. They are waiting for the budget, especially because of the climate fund.

I am going to quote what I consider to be the most important paragraph for Canadians in the budget speech given by the Minister of Finance. I am being completely objective, of course. In my opinion, the following words were the highlight of this budget:

Our great challenge—and our clear responsibility—is to bring the same focus, the same determination and the same dedication to protecting and enhancing our environment as we did to restoring the health of the nation’s finances. Canadians don’t want a fiscal mortgage hanging over the futures of their children and they don’t want an environmental mortgage to be the legacy of this generation to the next.

That is why we need this budget. If the opposition members do not believe me, maybe they will believe this:

David Runnalls, president of the Canadian National Institute for Sustainable Development has summarized the gist of my remarks today. Of Budget 2005 he said, “It is not just a bunch of money for environmental programs. There are lots of different incentives to the good things that make the economy greener”.

I want also to mention that more than 30 environmental groups in Canada have written to the leaders of the parties in the House. I want to quote the letter. It states:

We are writing to remind you that the vast majority of climatologists are calling on all governments to take urgent action on climate change. Canadians in all regions support rising to the challenge and are looking to you, their leaders, to act responsibly in defense of present and future generations. Yet, this important environmental and economic issue is being overshadowed in the present atmosphere of partisan politics. We call on all parties to put aside their differences long enough to ensure the measures that are necessary for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol, introduced in the February budget, are approved by Parliament without delay. There will be plenty of time in the coming years to reevaluate, redesign and expand the plan as it is rolled out. In the meantime it is essential we act now. We assure you we will work with Parliament to improve the plan and make it the best and most credible in the world.

There is a long list including Greenpeace Canada, Toronto Environmental Alliance, Toxic Watch Society of Alberta, et cetera that have signed the letter. I hope the leaders will listen and will vote unanimously for the greenest budget in the history of our federation.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to hear the minister speak today. I would like to hear exactly what his detailed plans are for the agricultural and rural areas of Canada. They are probably the ones that can contribute the most to the green plan, but will probably be the ones that get the least in incentives.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, if there is a group that needs this budget, it is certainly the people who work in agriculture and rural Canada.

With respect to our climate change plan, the Government of Canada is committed to investing $10 billion in the next eight budgets up to 2012, the end of the Kyoto, and we will invest at least $1 billion for agriculture, whether it is ethanol, or biodiesel or the climate fund. As I mentioned, the climate fund will have a lot of capacity to help reward farmers with good practices such as low till practices or whatever it is such as changing the waste in electricity.

We will change the practices in agriculture in Canada and will make Canada the greenest model in the world if we act altogether. We have the best plan for that. It has been celebrated by many of my colleagues around the world. I will quote from the German federal minister of the environment, Juergen Trittin, who said:

I am delighted that Canada is promoting climate protection with an ambitious action plan...the country hosting the next international climate change conference in Montreal in December.

He goes on to say that Canada is sending a strong and progressive signal to the world and that Canada offers the evidence that climate protection also on the North American continent is feasible and politically rewarding.

Germany has done a lot to modernize its agricultural industry in order to make it greener. It is a good compliment and incentive for us to vote unanimously for this green budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the minister's list of spending he talked about the Asian longhorn beetle, and the word beetle is quite personal to me. Over the last 10 years or more the province of British Columbia has had a natural disaster occur in its forests as a result of the mountain pine beetle. The Liberals are aware of the devastation it has caused. Their record is not something of which they should be proud.

In 2002 the British Columbia minister of forestry was in Ottawa. He told the government that the province had a five year, billion dollar plan to mitigate and try to arrest the damage that had been caused by the mountain pine beetle. There was no response to that. The federal government said that it would contribute $40 million to B.C., less than 10% of the province's five year plan.

In 2004 the province asked the federal government to be partners in a 10 to 15 year plan. It wanted $1 billion plus a long term commitment while the job was being done. The government offered the province 10% of that, $100 million, with no commitment to the future.

Why does the government seem to have so much indifference about the problems of British Columbia?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Liberal Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Mr. Speaker, this budget, and especially the climate change plan, will give us plenty of opportunities to work with the province of British Columbia. I have a very good relationship with my counterparts there, and I am confident that will be the case.

We are investing in this budget in order to fight the pine beetle problem. It is a terrible problem from both an economic perspective and an environmental perspective. It may prevent us from having a good solution to the problem of CO

2

emissions and the capacity to keep them in the forest. We strongly support the forest industry.

I want to quote Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada. He said:

The industry is encouraged by the tone of the government’s climate change plan and while important details still need to be resolved, we find this plan, combined with earlier policy announcements outlined in the budget, to be very positive.

I agree with him. We need this plan for our forests. We need this budget.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know that there is some sort of rule in this House that when we are debating or responding to a question, we should try to stay with the theme of the question.

My question was distinctly about pine beetles--

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry. I think we are onto further debate and, unfortunately, the time for questions and comments has expired.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I still would like to hear more details of what the minister has in store for the agriculture and rural communities of Canada. To have a quote from Germany does not help us in western Canada. I would like to hear some quotes in western Canada of how we will have some incentives to meet our goals. I was disappointed that I did not hear any made-in-Canada solution.

I would like to speak today about the budget. Bill C-48 is not just about the environment. It is not about child care. It is not about affordable housing. It is not even about anything the Liberals or the NDP alliance would have us believe. The legislation is all about political survival because this government seemingly has one goal, one purpose and one objective: the retention of power, at all costs.

The government is willing to trash today's cherished principles for the political expedience of tomorrow. For example, the Minister of Finance was adamant a few weeks ago, stating that any changes to the budget would be inconceivable because any opposition tampering with this budget would spark a financial downturn in Canada. I quote the finance minister:

You can't go on stripping away the budget, piece by piece...That's not the way you maintain a coherent fiscal framework. If you engage in that exercise, it is an absolute, sure formula for the creation of a deficit.

The absence of principle and conviction usually makes the once inconceivable a reality in politics. Consequently, only a few weeks later, the finance minister was undercut by his Prime Minister, who allowed the leader of the smallest party in the House to gleefully rewrite the budgetary framework of Canada.

We should take a moment to ponder the magnitude of that act. The finance minister had his agenda dictated to him by the leader of the major national party which consistently garners the least support across Canada. There is a reason for that.

While some limited portions of the NDP agenda may be somewhat appealing, Canadians know that entrusting the public purse to the NDP is about as smart as giving kids caffeine before bedtime. They will tax our energy all night and keep on asking for more.

Canadians cannot endorse the reckless spending and the anti-growth agenda advocated by New Democrats. We only have to look at my home province of Saskatchewan to see how the NDP-managed discourages innovation and drives people away. Accordingly, this new budget represents the beginning of a significant realignment in Canadian politics. The Liberals have abandoned a mainstream approach to governing defined by fiscal prudence to one ripe with billions in unaccountable spending dictated to them by the least popular party in Canada.

Amazingly, the government is demanding members in the opposition endorse the legislation. Not only would this course of action jeopardize Canada's economic future, it would turn the public purse into a prize on what the Waterloo Record has called Canada's news game show, “Let's Spin the Taxpayers' Wheel of Misfortune and Make a Deal”. In a frantic attempt to cling to power, the government has made the first winner of this game show the smallest party in Parliament and its leader.

What did the leader of the fourth place party have to do to win this prize? It is simple. Change his tune completely on this government and agree to prop it up.

The NDP just months ago voted against the budget. The NDP just months ago did not have confidence in this government. The NDP just months ago was prepared to force an election. The NDP was ready to, and in fact did, play politics.

Even more, the leader of the NDP publicly chided my party for having the audacity for refusing to bring down the government and force an election this past February. Why? Because apparently the budget of a few months ago was all wrong, especially for the residents of my home province of Saskatchewan. The NDP went to great lengths. According to the leader of the NDP, the budget did nothing for Saskatchewan and he was extremely concerned about what had happened in the budget.

Let me quote from the February 25 Globe and Mail :

New Democrats said that if the Tories vote for the Liberal budget, they will revel in pointing that out to voters on the hustings, especially in the West, which has several ridings that are Conservative-NDP races. One NDP adviser said the party would have a field day pointing to a Tory vote for a budget that funds the gun registry and does little for farmers.

However, when the government, like a parent desperately trying to silence a pouting child at the toy section of a department store, caved into NDP demands, something odd happened. While the NDP demanded some really expensive toys, $4.6 billion worth of them, paid for with Canadian taxpayers' hard earned money, it demanded nothing for Saskatchewan, and everything that was left out of the first budget was left out again. There is nothing for farmers, nothing for rural communities and nothing for Saskatchewan. I look forward to hearing the NDP explain that on the hustings.

I would also like the Liberal-NDP alliance to explain how this legislation resembles responsible financial management, or how this budget will improve the quality of lives of Canadians because we all know it is not and cannot.

This legislation is not responsible financial management. It represents the worst of the worst in unrestrained spending of the Liberal government. People in my riding and across Canada will not accept this. People like Russel Marcoux, the CEO of the Yanke Group of Companies, said, “we're hearing about a billion dollars here and a billion dollars there. Where is it all coming from?”

There is no fiscal responsibility evident right now. People know that if they were to model business decisions after the Liberal-NDP budget, they would not have to worry about making other business decisions for a long time after that. Insolvency will do that for them. Even more troubling, Bill C-48 lays out no plan for spending. It only lays out a lot of spending. It commits millions to a large number of areas with absolutely no plans on how the money will be spent.

Ironically, while the Gomery inquiry is examining sponsorship spending in the 1990s by the Liberal government, this legislation would allow cabinet to again create and implement programs with absolutely no framework. It would allow cabinet to make payments in any manner it deems fit. The Liberal Party of Canada, the party of ad scam and the party of Alfonso Gagliano, wants Canadian taxpayers to trust it with their money, to implement programs with no framework and no accountability. Those are not shrieks of delight from hardworking, overtaxed Canadians.

Nancy Hughes Anthony, the president and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, recently stated that one would have thought, what with ad scam and these sorts of things, that the accountability would be increased, but we are seeing that the accountability seems to be decreased. How any rational individual could seriously consider endorsing this total absence of a framework is puzzling at best?

The Liberal Party of Canada created a problem for themselves with ad scam and the resulting tales of deceit and corruption emanating from the Gomery inquiry. Now the Prime Minister and his party want to use the Canadian taxpayers to bail them out.

Like the bank robbers who throw money into the air to confuse the authorities during a getaway, the Liberal Party is trying to deflect attention from ad scam with an unparalleled spending blitz. While the NDP has been a willing getaway driver setting its price for cooperation, the Canadian public cannot and will not easily comply.

If a CEO of any reputable company wanted to increase spending and reduce revenue in the midst of a major crisis, the board of directors would surely ask for his or her resignation. Canadians are the directors of the Canadian government. We should expect no less and demand no less. This is no way to run a country.

We in Saskatchewan have an NDP government. We know what we are talking about when we see our hard earned taxpayer dollars go to a government that has no clue about responsible government and spending.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to the speech of the member opposite. For a speech that was intended to address the budget, I certainly heard an awful lot of politics.

I suspect that I spent more time listening to political rhetoric than I did listening to substantive comment on the budget. We heard a lot of talk about the New Democratic Party and I think that my colleague opposite and her colleagues are perhaps a little bit too distracted by the politics.

Having said that, I acknowledge 100% that this is a political place and that politics is going on all the time. We should not be too negative in talking to each other just because things are political.

However, getting back to the budget, I do not quite understand how the member opposite can reach a conclusion in her speech that somehow the government does not know what it is doing. The record of the last seven or eight fiscal years has shown very clearly that it does know what it is doing. I could go through all the statistics, but I am not going to even mention any benchmarks because they are repeated here all the time, indicating that the government has done extremely well.

Among the G-8 countries, it is actually a leader currently and projected to be leading in so many of the economic statistics including balanced budgets. That commitment persists to this day. We will balance the books and our budget this time is calculated to continue to do that for the next few years.

I do not understand the member when she suggests that the government does not know what it is doing when the record clearly shows that the government does know what it is doing fiscally and politically.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Madam Speaker, it is very hard to talk about a budget when we do not know what the budget is. In the member's remarks, he said that he heard a lot more about politics. I have never seen so much politics played as I have in the last couple of weeks.

As the member said, for the last seven or eight years the government has balanced budgets, but in the last couple of weeks it has been a sad scenario for Canada. Imagine how well we would have done if we had the money that was filtered through ad scam? Just imagine the hospitals that would still be open today. Perhaps the compassionate care program that probably could have been fulfilled as it was needed.

However, perhaps the member did not hear me because I quoted from some people who are very concerned about the budget, people like Nancy Hughes Anthony. We would have thought that with ad scam that accountability would be increased and that is what we are trying to say. There is no accountability. All we are hearing is announcements from coast to coast to coast.

There is no solution for Saskatchewan where we are having a difficult time right now. Farmers are trying to put crops in the fields and trying to sustain a living. I think the suicide rate will be up this year considerably because it is a very sad situation in Saskatchewan. Our Prime Minister and his ministers have failed to recognize the seriousness of the border being closed. I thought that border would be opened because the Government gave us all a bit of hope when it elected its new leader.

I also wanted to mention that the Liberals' approach to budgetary matters is that of an extortionist and perhaps the member who I know has a legal background would have to ask why a lawyer would write me this or perhaps he would agree that the approach is basically as this lawyer accountant wrote me: “I have your money and you'll get it back if you do this for me. You'll never see the money again if you do not vote for the Liberal budget. The problem is that any supposed power to enforce compliance is not real”.

I am disappointed that the member did not really get the speech because he misunderstood that Canadians do not want their dollars wasted. There is only one taxpayer. In Saskatchewan we are victims of a government that just taxes us to death and has no incentives for economic growth. We were counting on this budget helping Saskatchewan become a sustainable province.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Burlington Ontario

Liberal

Paddy Torsney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking after the member for Blackstrap because my constituents are thrilled with the budget. The budget represents important investments. If she was actually consulting her constituents, including the families in her constituency that would benefit from the investments in early childhood development, she would know that they too are looking forward to the budget.

The budget builds on a successful record of Liberal budgets. Canada became deficit free for the first time in 30 years in the fiscal year 1997-98. Since then we have had eight consecutive balanced budgets and we have shaved off $61.4 billion from our national debt. That is money that is directly paying down the debt, much like many of us pay down our mortgages. It is a record unmatched over the last 50 years. On top of that we have also had some $100 billion in tax cuts.

In 2004 Canada had the fastest growth in exports in more than seven years and Canadian real GDP advanced at an annual rate of 4.3% in the second quarter making Canada the envy of the G-7. Since the Liberal Party formed the government in 1993, over 3.5 million jobs have been created and some 500,000 of these jobs were created between January 2003 and January 2005.

It is because of the Liberal Party's strong fiscal record that the government has and is continuing to invest in priorities that matter to Canadians. The budget demonstrates those investments in health care, early childhood development, the environment, cities and municipalities, and Canada's role in the world.

Let us look at the announcement on early childhood development. In my constituency, like many constituencies right across the country, the majority of children under the age of six are receiving some form of child care. Yet, only one in five of those children across the country is in a regulated day care space. That number has not changed in the last decade.

If we look at innovative economies, children need to learn easily and quickly when they arrive at school at the age of five, so early childhood development is absolutely imperative to their success.

In fact, my community of Burlington participated in an institute of urban studies initiative where it examined inclusivity, the term usually addressing racism and poverty, but it looked at how Canada could become more inclusive. Cities like Burlington, Saint John, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver were the cities that participated in the first tranche of the study.

One recommendation that came through loud and clear, particularly from the city of Burlington, was the development and support of a high quality national early learning and child care development strategy that is coordinated, universal and transparent. This would make a huge difference to families and ensure that people have the chance to be all that they can be.

The budget that we are discussing today, which we will vote on later this week, responded to this need with the federal government's commitment of $5 billion over five years to build that national framework with different rollouts in each province because of differing needs, but a $5 billion commitment nevertheless. I know in Ontario that money is going to be well spent.

The other thing that is important in the budget, as I mentioned, is predictable, stable funding in the long term infrastructure area, particularly for our municipalities. In terms of the environment, social and economic infrastructure, these things will be very important to our communities.

Revenue raised by the gas tax is one mechanism that the budget commits to ensuring that we have the infrastructure, so that Canada is able to continue to remain competitive and that business and individuals in our communities will benefit. The last budget had the GST rebate for the municipal sector and in my community that was worth some $1 million a year.

The other area that I mentioned provides us an opportunity to talk about Canada's role in the world. Canada is making important contributions to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world that reflects our Canadian values and interests. The proposed increases to official development assistance will go a long way to ensuring that Canada helps and does its share to achieve the millennium development goals, that ambitious agenda that world leaders committed to in the year 2000 to cut global poverty in half by 2015.

The increases will help implement Canada's new international policy statement, the framework that coordinates the three Ds, diplomacy, defence and development, and our trade agenda to make sure that Canadians are at the forefront, that Canadian aid dollars are used in the most effective way, and that we get more coherence. It will be a new platform for Canadians to play a more important and effective role in relieving the plight of the world's poorest people.

Our country's principles and values, our culture, are rooted in the commitment to tolerance, democracy, equality, equity in human rights, peaceful resolution of differences, the opportunities and challenges of the marketplace, social justice, sustainable development and easing poverty. This was witnessed after the recent tsunami disaster. Canadians responded with an unbelievable opening of their wallets, an incredible contribution to ease the suffering and plight of others in that affected area. Some $200 million was raised by individuals and that amount was matched by Canadian government contributions. We go further than that in the budget.

Canada has an important role to play in the fight against global poverty. Our new approach in aid is outlined in the international policy statement. We are concentrating our efforts in five priority sectors: health, education, governance, private sector development and environmental sustainability. Across all of that we are working on gender equality.

Helping women in developing countries will be a theme throughout our work to make sure that we are enhancing inclusivity in many parts of the world, places where we can make a difference. As everyone knows, an educated mother will have children at a later age and will be able to assist in her children's education. We will make those important gains around the world.

Kofi Annan has talked about how we need to do better in the world. Canada is certainly on target in meeting its international commitments, continuing to grow its aid and making sure that its commitments are honoured. In the recent UN report entitled “Threats, Challenges and Change”, he stated, “The threats we face are threats to all of us and they are linked to each other. To address these many threats to human well-being and security, the world needs to share the benefits of trade, to end the debt crisis and to promote more efficient and effective aid”. Canadians are doing just that. In fact, the IPS ensures that we will do just that.

I would like to talk more about our commitment to pursuing greater sectoral focus in CIDA. Our actions in focusing on 25 partner countries will go a long way to easing the plight of those particularly in Africa. Fourteen of the countries, more than half, are in sub-Saharan Africa, countries with some of the lowest income levels on a per capita basis, and that are able to use our aid effectively. We have some history with those countries. It has been a real injustice for some of the opposition members not to recognize that. On top of that there are specific countries for which we have a whole of government approach, areas like the Sudan. The Prime Minister made an increased commitment to helping the individuals in the Darfur region, important investments to ease its problems and make sure there is peace and security for the individuals there.

For Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan we have a whole of government approach so that we can bring about peace and work on development to allow them to have a sustainable economy and that they will be able to continue to trade.

Madam Speaker, you have been involved in many of the initiatives. The public will be interested to know that members of Parliament work with the ministers of international development, trade, defence, and foreign affairs to implement Canada's agenda. It is Canadian members of Parliament who work collaboratively on things like landmines, the creation of the International Criminal Court, bringing awareness of human rights issues to our colleagues around the world and setting an example for good governance. All Canadians can be proud of that accomplishment which is done in the spirit of collegiality and representing all of Canada and not partisan differences.

In this current climate particularly leading up to the vote on Thursday, it is important to remember that we do work together in advancing the situation for others in the world. The world has a lot to gain from Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Conservative Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Madam Speaker, my question for the member involves the issue of the gas tax and moneys that are being allotted to municipalities.

In my riding there are a number of small municipalities that have the job to repair bridges and maintain roads. The warden of Dufferin County, a fellow named John Oosterhof, has suggested that he is most concerned that the issue of funding is based on population as opposed to kilometres. Some of the city people, such as Mayor Miller of Toronto, say they have to have all this money. The problem is that many rural municipalities just do not have the funding. In my area a bridge had to be closed because the municipality did not have the resources to repair it.

The decision appears to have already been made that it will be based on population as opposed to kilometres. Would the member be prepared to have the government reconsider that formula and base it on kilometres as opposed to population?

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I find it very interesting that the member for Dufferin--Caledon is not happy about how previous waves of infrastructure have been rolled out in our province. We are both from the province of Ontario. Interestingly, he sat as a member of the government that worked out the last deal so perhaps he should talk to his old colleagues, Mr. Eves and Mr. Harris, if he did not like the deal that was worked out by the province.

I can assure him that this new commitment on gas tax is not a stand-alone initiative. It is in fact an initiative that complements the work that we have done on GST rebates, on the infrastructure program, on COMRIF, specifically allowing smaller municipalities to pool their resources to invest in things that are important.

I am very much in favour of making sure that the deal is something that will be reflective of the reality of smaller communities like mine, of rural communities like his, and making sure that all of the money is not sucked into the very busiest and biggest capitals. There is some element of per capita that is absolutely imperative, but we also have to look at the infrastructure that is important to all of us.

I would encourage the member to pick one of the sides that his party has been on regarding this deal for cities. There has been a bit of a flip-flop all over the place throughout the last election and in the last couple of weeks. He should support the budget on Thursday and vote for the new deal for cities because it is important to the member's riding, to my riding and to the people of Canada.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Guy Côté Bloc Portneuf, QC

Madam Speaker, I have never seen an MP less concerned about her constituents. She is absolutely remiss in her duty.

Yesterday, I had the sad task of having to explain in this House why the budget and the two budget implementation bills do not recognize the realities and problems currently in place in Quebec. Hon. members will recall that there was a farmers' protest yesterday on Parliament Hill. Last evening, I got a call from a forest products company, Tembec, announcing that four of its plants were going to shut down or cut back on operations.

For years, the Bloc Québécois has been calling upon the government to come up with an effective plan to assist the forest industry and its workers. We have yet to see any sign of it. For years we have been demanding a government plan to assist older workers. At the very least, when plants are closed, we want to see assistance programs made available to those who lose their jobs.

I hope that the hon. member will come to my riding to explain how Bill C-48 is going to help the unemployed of Saint-Raymond and Saint-Léonard. There is another plant in Brantford, Ontario, where I hope she will go as well. I also invite her to my colleague's riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue, where another will be closing. I hope the hon. member is going to look out for the real interests of her fellow citizens.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

May 17th, 2005 / 12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I have worked with hon. members from the Bloc Québécois, the hon. member for Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques and the hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes, on the WTO situation.

There is a group of members who want to have rules and a new system. We have worked together to change the rules in order to ensure that the voice and aspirations of people in our ridings are respected in the world. The hon. member needs to think a little bit about the situation in Canada. There are places here where we must work harder to improve the situation for people without employment. Nonetheless, this government has worked very hard for everyone in every riding and every province.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the assembly today and speak to Bill C-43, particularly because my understanding is that today is a rather slow news day--

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Come on over.

Budget Implementation Act, 2005Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I am sure that all the political junkies who are tuning in to get their political fix today have nothing better to do, so this debate will probably fill a void for them. I am pleased to speak and help those people get their political fix.

I should say at the outset that even though this is a debate on Bill C-43, I feel we cannot really speak to this legislation without also speaking to Bill C-48, because the two are obviously intertwined.

I think we have to put things in context. These two bills are rather unprecedented. This is the first time in recent memory that I can remember not one but two budget bills being delivered. In fact, it is my understanding that both of these bills need to be passed on Thursday evening for the government to avoid a non-confidence vote, so let us talk about the fact that these two bills have been brought down together, what that means and what the impacts are.

Members may recall that Bill C-43 passed the first stage a few months ago. At that time, although Conservative Party members abstained from the vote, we did so because we felt that the government deserved to go forward. Our party did not think that Canadians wanted a general election, at least at that point in time, so our members abstained from the vote. Shortly after that, of course, in fear of the government going down, the NDP proposed a solution, one that is a political solution, I might add, and not a financial solution, and introduced and cut a deal with the government that ultimately led to the creation of Bill C-48.

I have to set the record straight on a few points.

First, the Minister of Finance has said on several occasions that it was the Conservatives who flip-flopped on our position of support on Bill C-43 and that is why the government was forced to seek an arrangement with the NDP. In fact, that is not true. What happened was that the revelations coming out of the Gomery inquiry were of such magnitude and such impact that we felt the government then did not deserve our support to remain in office. We then clearly indicated that we would be trying to take the government down at any and every opportunity. It was only because of this situation that the government then entered into negotiations with the NDP. The ultimate creation was this bill called Bill C-48.

It is this bill, quite frankly, that gives me quite a bit of concern, because we all know that this was a political deal made not in the best interests of Canadians but in the best interests of the Liberal Party of Canada. In fact, this deal was cut in a hotel room in Toronto without the presence of the Minister of Finance.

We hear all the spin from members opposite, who are saying that the Minister of Finance was involved. I have never seen a budget consultation that created a budget bill for Canadians while the Minister of Finance was on the phone listening to House leaders from two different parties create a budget bill. It is unheard of.

It is incumbent upon all Canadians to understand that this was a political solution to a problem the Liberals felt they were facing, and that was the defeat of their own government. This was not a bill that was constructed to help Canadians. This bill was constructed to help the Liberal Party of Canada.

Now that I have provided that framework, I think I can talk a bit more about Bill C-43.

I must admit that there are elements of Bill C-43 with which I agree. There are certain things contained in the bill, particularly with respect to the RRSP provisions in the elimination of the 30% restriction on RRSPs. This alone is something that many people in my riding had been asking for over several years. Over many elections the government talked about implementing that provision, but in my recollection, this is the first time it has actually brought it forward in a budget. That is something I applaud.

There were a few other points that I could agree with, but here is what happened when Bill C-48 came into the mix. This was a plan, and I use the word “plan” very lightly because I think there was no real forethought put into it, and a bill brought forward that literally could be contained on a page and a half. This was a bill that was put together on the back of an envelope, to use the vernacular, in order to try to save the political hide of the Liberals.

What happens when a budget is put forward that has spending commitments of over $4.6 billion without a true plan on how to implement it? It is a recipe for disaster.

I think the Minister of Finance also understood that, because at the time Bill C-43, the original budget bill, was brought forward, the Minister of Finance was effusive in his praise about his own bill. All members opposite were lauding this budget as one of the best budgets in years.

However, when questioned by the media and by members of the opposition as to the potential of amending that bill for political purposes, the Minister of Finance was quite clear. He stated unequivocally that we cannot .cherry pick budgets. We cannot take certain elements out of a budget and put other elements in because that is a sure recipe for deficits, for deficit disaster.

Those were the words of the Minister of Finance, but what happened only a few short weeks later? There was a political deal cut, without his knowledge, I might add. The very things he was warning all Canadians about happened. Why did they happen? Once again, it was for political purposes: to suit the Liberal Party of Canada.

Frankly, I feel sorry for the Minister of Finance because his legs were cut out from underneath him by the Prime Minister. The Minister of Finance was not consulted about this. He was told, “We must enter into an agreement with the NDP to save our political hides”. Now, across Canada, the Minister of Finance, to his great embarrassment, is trying to defend Bill C-48 when in his heart of hearts he knows as well as I know and as well as most Canadians know that Bill C-48 is an unmitigated disaster. It was only done for political purposes, and that is the worst thing that Canadians expect of any political party and any Minister of Finance.

Budgets, whether we agree with them or not, should be crafted to try to represent the views of the government of the day and hopefully to represent the views of the majority of Canadians, to help Canadians but to be financially and fiscally responsible. Bill C-48 destroys all that credibility, Whatever credibility there was within the original budget bill, Bill C-43, Bill C-48 goes to great lengths to destroy it. That is something I simply cannot support and I do not think most members of the House should support it.

We are in the situation right now where there is a lot of political tension. That is obvious. Many political observers are saying that we are on the brink of an election. Clearly today's announcement puts that in some doubt because of the numbers shifting a little, but I do not think Canadians should have to expect that budgets affecting the lives of Canadians from coast to coast to coast should be put in jeopardy for political purposes. I do not think Canadians expect that budgets should be crafted and designed in order to better prop up the political fortunes of any party. Whether it be Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats or the Bloc, Canadians expect and deserve better, but it is just not happening.

If there was going to be an attempt by the New Democrats to craft a deal with the Liberals to amend the budget and to bring in a new budget, or a better budget, as they like to call it, then I would think that at least there should have been consultation with all members of the House and with all parties. There was not. The NDP tried to further its own political purposes in a hasty deal with the Liberals. It totally ignored the reality of what people in my province wanted to see.

For example, in the original budget bill, Bill C-43, there was literally no mention of agriculture, none whatsoever. The NDP then suggested a solution, an amendment that it said would help Canadians in all provinces across Canada. I can tell the House with great certainty the people of Saskatchewan are absolutely opposed to Bill C-48, because once again, with an amendment and the opportunity before it to bring something to the province of Saskatchewan, the NDP totally ignored agriculture. The NDP had the government over a veritable political barrel. It could have introduced some significant changes and benefits for Canadian agriculture and farmers in Saskatchewan, and yet it did nothing.

Let me close by saying I think it is a travesty that this government is trying to promote a bill that was crafted strictly for political purposes, thus reneging on its own commitment to Bill C-43. This is unconscionable, and at least Bill C-48 should be defeated.