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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parents.

Topics

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Conservative Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for the great information he has given us, although I must admit that I heard the minister speaking earlier, when he appeared before the government operations committee that I am a member of, and at that time he informed us that there was $40 million spent. When we pursued how that money was spent, we were told that there were 20 million photocopies of information that had to be produced. Well, by my mathematics, that means that each piece of photocopied paper cost $2 a copy, which seems awfully excessive.

The other part that confuses me is why this war room needs someone like Ms. Menke, who is a former director of CSIS, to be the director. There are only four or five staff in that unit and apparently Ms. Menke is heading up that war room. I would like the member's opinion on that.

The minister mentioned that there were 20 million photocopies. By the way, these were all photocopied in the other departments. I am sure they were not copied in the PCO.

There is an article in the newspaper today that talks about lawyers for Jean Chrétien, Jean Pelletier and Alfonso Gagliano. The Gomery commission cost taxpayers more than a million dollars.

Let me just go through what it cost. Mr. Pelletier, the former Prime Minister's chief of staff, cost the public purse $382,000 between September 2004 and January 2005. We are talking about four months there, roughly. Mr. Chrétien's lawyer, from the same firm, cost $311,000 for services during the same period. Mr. Gagliano ran up a bill of $401,000. That is in excess of a million dollars. Now other bills, obtained through the access to information request made by CPAC, include $84,000 by lawyers for Chuck Guité. This money was spent to prepare the witnesses. How come there is supposed to be $40 million, along with the photocopies, that was spent preparing witnesses? I am confused. I wonder if the member could shed some light on that.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Lunn Conservative Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the point. As we dive into this, we learn more. What has happened with this whole commission is really tragic: this money was funnelled into the Liberal Party of Canada. Quite rightfully, Canadians are just sickened by it, almost to the point that they do not want to hear about it anymore because it just keeps going from bad to worse.

We hear about $40 million to “prepare” government witnesses, but they have all been given their own lawyers and that means millions more. It just never ends. First of all, people were directly involved with siphoning off taxpayers' money and stuffing it into suitcases and sprinkling it throughout Quebec and now we are giving them more taxpayer money to defend themselves.

It does not end, and it is so fundamentally wrong. Let us imagine that the current Prime Minister had come along and acknowledged from day one that yes, he knew stuff was going on but it was a Liberal Party problem and so he just opened up the books and came clean. We all know that this is Liberal Party problem. Every donkey in the country knows that this is a Liberal Party problem.

The Liberals talk about the 20 million documents they had to photocopy for the commission. I have no doubt they did. I would be more interested in the ones they did not photocopy, the ones that made it to the shredders. I wonder about the 20 million they sent and the boxes. I wonder if they said, “There is a warehouse full of documents there. Those are not damaging to us. Let us photocopy them and send them”. We know that a lot of documents made it to the shredders.

This is not the way a modern, civilized government should operate. It is even worse to see the current government continuing to try to defend itself, to prepare, to say that it is clean, when it is absolutely crystal clear that millions of dollars were shuffled into the Liberal Party

. Now the Liberals are trying to defend spending more money than the commission itself. The commission is at $32 million, but they are at $40 million and it is going up. They are racking up higher bills and spending more money than the commission itself just to try to prepare witnesses, to prepare them to tell the truth. There is something fundamentally wrong here.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the 10 minutes I am allocated today I do want to talk about the opposition notice of motion, because technically it is not a motion but a notice of motion. It should trigger a motion from the President of the Treasury Board. That is what we are debating here tonight. We are talking about the more than $1 million for the war room set up by the government in the Privy Council Office.

I am going to talk about more than that. I am going to talk about the Gomery inquiry itself. We have seen in media reports that it is going to cost $80 million. In fact, the actual cost of the inquiry will be something like $35 million. It is a lot of money, but it is money well spent to try to find a way to deal with this kind of thing and prevent it in the future, although in reality nothing will prevent it except a government with ethics. That is not going to happen with this Liberal government no matter what Gomery finds.

What happened to the rest of the $80 million? What we find is that the government has spent more money hiding and trying to keep things from Gomery than it has on the actual Gomery inquiry itself. It has spent more money covering and hiding the information than the actual Gomery inquiry is spending.

That is completely unacceptable, yet we heard the deputy House leader for the government, who appeared at our government operations and estimates committee on this issue, spinning the Liberal message very effectively. The Liberals are very good at this. In fact, they are masters at it. The Liberals are truly masters at taking reality and making it sound like the total opposite. Very few political parties in the world can do that. They are probably the best in the western world, but I do not think that is anything to be proud of.

It is really sad that the Liberals will take reality and spin it into something entirely different. It is not acceptable. They have done that for a lot of years. I want to start by talking about some of the things that they have spun in the past and that they have been caught at. I am not talking just about corruption, although there is so much corruption. It is widespread and it is deep.

I am going to talk about issues that affect every single Canadian in the country. First, before the 2000 election, the Prime Minister passed a budget. In the budget was $100 billion of tax relief. That is what he claimed. That is what the Prime Minister claimed when he was finance minister.

That is a lot of tax relief, but I ask Canadians to look at their paycheques from 1999, 2001 and today and compare the taxes that are taken off their paycheques. Canadians will find that taxes are every bit as bad now and probably worse than they were back then.

So what the government said was one thing. It sounded good, and it won them an election, in fact, but the reality was totally different. Canadians found that out on their paycheques every single month. The Liberals said one thing but reality is another.

Let us talk about health care and how the Liberals say they are the saviours of health care. If we listen to the Prime Minister, the health minister and the others over on that side, we will hear that they are the saviours of health care.

Yet our health care system has collapsed to such an extent that the Supreme Court said that Canadians, Quebeckers, should have the right to private health care because the public system is so bad that it cannot be counted on to deliver the health care Canadians need. That is what the Supreme Court ruled just last week.

The Liberals say they are the saviours of health care and they have been saying that while in government for 12 years. The reality is clearly something different.

As well, the long gun registry was going to make society safer. It was going to reduce crimes committed with guns. We all know that simply the opposite has happened.

On agriculture programs, the Liberals are pumping billions into farmers' pockets and saying that things are much better on the farm than they were in the past because of what the government has done. As a farmer, I know that it has never been worse on the farm. My neighbours know and farmers right across the country know.

What the Liberals say is one thing. The reality is an entirely different thing. They spin it and they spin it so well that it sounds believable, but the cruel, hard reality of what is going on in this country tells quite another story.

The Liberals say that sanctioning same sex marriage will somehow save the institution of marriage and the family. I have heard some of them say that. That is the way they have spun it. We all know that this is simply not the case. It is not true. It goes on and on.

The Liberals are going to legalize pot and it is going to make the problem better. They are going to legalize prostitution and it is going to make the problem better.

They are going to have government look after our kids because it can somehow do so better than the parents of this country. That is a disgusting idea, yet they spin it so it sounds good. They take away from parents the choice of looking after their kids in the way they want and choose. With the program they are proposing, it takes that choice away. They make it sound so good, but the reality is entirely different.

I cannot go through much more tonight. I have to talk about this war room and the over $40 million the government has spent to cover up and keep information from the Gomery inquiry. That is a lot of money.

We have layers of corruption and wrongdoing, one stacked on top of the other. First of all, there is the corruption, the scandal itself. Of course we have learned a lot about this one particular scandal from the Gomery inquiry. That is not enough. The Liberals try to spin that. They will not admit to any wrongdoing. Only when they are caught do they set up the Gomery inquiry.

The Liberals got caught, they set up the inquiry, all this information comes out, and then what? They are going to be the people to clean it up. They were all involved in it, by their silence at least, I would suggest, but many of them were very closely involved in all this corruption. Yet they are going to be the ones to clean it up now. It makes no sense but that is the way they spin it. They are really good at that.

Now there is the million dollar war room. It is not a war room, the Liberals say. It is not to protect Liberals that have been caught cheating taxpayers out of their money. That is not what it is. To them it is just to help Gomery get the job done. The spin is marvellous.

I give them credit. I absolutely give the Liberal Party and the Liberal government credit for being the best in the western world at spinning truth into something else and making it look like reality, making it look believable. This is not something that Canadians are proud of. I do not think it is anything to be proud of at all, nor do most Canadians.

What we have now is unbelievable. The original $100 million or so that is the topic of the Gomery commission was spent mostly by Liberal friends in ways that clearly were wrong, and they have been caught. Then the Liberals spend another $40 million or more in keeping the information from Gomery. Yet the public works minister stands in the House every day saying, “Let Gomery do his work”. I am tired of hearing him say that every day: “Let Justice Gomery do his job”.

If the Liberals are sincere about that, then why are they spending more money to prevent Justice Gomery from doing his job than they are giving Gomery to allow him to do his job? That is the reality of what is happening here. It is disturbing but it is sad. It hurts us all. It hurts every single member of Parliament.

If it hurts every member of Parliament, it hurts democracy in this country. What is sad is the level that democracy in the House has been brought down to because of the government. Its most recent tactic is to say that somehow the Conservatives or the Bloc are involved. Actually, I do not think they have tried the Conservatives yet, but they are certainly saying that the Bloc is involved in this, so everybody is crooked and it is okay. That is a disgusting defence.

I realize that my time is up. I would be happy to answer any questions, but quite frankly I do not think anything else needs to be said on this issue. The Canadian public is very much aware of what has gone on, except that we of course discover new information every day and it is just as disturbing as the information was when this scandal was originally uncovered.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Sudbury Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I have heard spin but this is not even good spin. I am trying to figure out what it is exactly that the member wants.

I was at committee when members opposite talked about a war room. It is not a war room. It is a coordinating committee to ensure everyone gives the paper forward.

It is kind of sad. This government called the inquiry because we wanted to get to the bottom of it. Yes, it is costly, but the only way we can clean it up is to air it.

I am angry about this. Are members opposite trying to tell us that Mr. Gomery has not done his job and has not received the information he was looking for? That is not my impression and I think Canadians across the country know we have been cooperating. To be honest, members opposite would not have heard all the things they have if we had not been cooperating. I say to the member that we want to get to the bottom of this. Is it cheap? No. However we are not a lynch mob.

I went to committee today. We want to condemn people. We want to be like a lynch mob. We want to decide who is guilty and who is not. I thought we lived in a democracy. Yes, bad things happen, but we have to make sure that proper legal steps are taken. Yes, we may not like it, but even the worse criminal has the right to a defence, and it is very important that happens.

We cannot impugn motives to members in the House or in the other House. I think it is wrong. I would ask that member to stop the spin and stop impugning motives to honest, hardworking members and especially an honest, hardworking public service.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:30 p.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, we have heard a little more spin.

I can understand, and I mean it sincerely, why a member might stand up and say that. It is because of the situation that her party has got itself into. When it is the Liberal Party and current members of government that are behind this corruption what else can those members do? I understand why they continue to perpetuate the spin but it still does not change reality.

As I was saying before, the spin is one thing but reality is quite another. The member said some things that really do not stand up to the test of accuracy. They are less than accurate. We are not really allowed to go beyond that in the House. The member has to know that.

If the member does not like the cost of the Gomery inquiry, then her party should not have been involved in the corruption in the first place. That is the way to prevent it. Even more than that, why did the Liberals not just admit to what they had done wrong? Why did they not say that the Liberal Party has been involved in a wrong activity and they will clean it up? However they did not say that. They hid it for more than a year and then finally, when the Auditor General put out her report and there was no denying it any more, only then did they say that they would be the ones to clean it up.

It is more spin but the Liberals are good at it. I give them credit. I am not nearly as good at spinning messages as members of the government but I hope I never am. However I can say that the Conservative Party of Canada will never be involved in activities like the Liberal Party has been involved. I will have no part of it and my colleagues will have no part of it.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

June 14th, 2005 / 7:35 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the notice of opposition by our Conservative colleagues. I think that it arises out of some wholly legitimate and valid intentions and concerns. The government has struck a commission of inquiry into the partisan use of public funds and it is absolutely necessary that we get to the bottom of it.

The more things move along, however, the more we realize that the government has in a rather hidden way, rather under the table, set some benchmarks, some guardrails to keep things from going off the tracks for it and for this commission. We are certainly aware of that sort of Privy Council war room which was apparently set up to coach the witnesses, channel media messages, fine tune them, all of course in the government's favour.

Is there not a danger of things going off the rails again and of more partisan use of public funds? The question certainly arises.

We also got wind of the possibility of a secret agreement between the attorneys for former Prime Minister Chrétien and the government's attorneys. It would appear that the agreement was more or less along these lines: the Chrétien attorneys would agree to withdraw the legal proceedings questioning the credibility and impartiality of Justice Gomery, while still retaining the possibility of being able to come back to it later. The government attorneys are saying, “If by any chance you decided to come back to that later, we will have no objections.”

The danger, after the Prime Minister promised the nation, cross his heart, that he would call an election 30 days at most after the tabling of the final report of the Gomery inquiry, is that now this secret pact might end up releasing the PM from this solemn promise to Canadians, and most particularly to Quebeckers.

Needless to say, those who still have an axe to grind and who wanted to have their say in an election, are the people of Quebec. The Liberals' sneaky tricks on May 19 deprived Quebeckers of the possibility of expressing themselves democratically. This is something that merits discussion, something that is most disconcerting in a democracy. But back to my main point.

This secret deal could free the Prime Minister from this promise. How is that possible? Quite simply, if the attorneys for former Prime Minister Chrétien decided once again to question Judge Gomery's credibility and impartiality when the judge tables his preliminary report and if, by chance, they managed to have him removed, this would have the effect that the judge would not be able to table his final report. Consequently, the government would not have to keep its commitment of holding an election 30 days following the tabling of the final report, since a final report would not be tabled.

Thus, the notice of opposition by the Conservative Party arises from extremely valid and legitimate concerns.

That being said, we must recognize that the procedure that was used to bring these concerns is very questionable. It shows some degree of amateurism and improvisation. Why? Because when we talk, for example, about removing $1 million from the vote, we should know to what we are referring exactly. We should trace this amount to know why it is $1 million, and not $1.5 million, or $2 million or $750,000. Thus, the amount put forward in the notice of opposition seems arbitrary to us and is not supported by specific data.

Also, we must recognize that our rules of procedure do not allow us to remove some amount from the initial vote. We must accept the vote or reject it entirely.

The program expenditures vote of the Privy Council is about $125.413 million. If we decided to cut the whole amount of $125.413 million, we would not only run the risk of sending this country into an election. It could also spell chaos for governance in Canada.

Of course, we have very serious reservations about the relevance of the Privy Council as the central agency of the government, but we have to admit it would not be justified to abolish it completely. Any government needs a central coordinating body where interdepartmental consultation can occur. That is exactly the role of the Privy Council.

Therefore, if we went along with the notice of opposition of our Conservative colleagues, which again is based on extremely valid and legitimate concerns, and if we opposed these votes, the consequences could be dramatic to say the least.

The Bloc Québécois has always advocated responsible action. In our opinion, it would be irresponsible, to say the least, to vote against this vote, given the dramatic consequences that could result.

Therefore, even though we obviously recognize the basis and the validity of the concerns expressed by our Conservative colleagues in this notice of opposition, we will not be able to join them in rejecting this vote.

It will not be our pleasure to do this, but we will do it because we have always said we would act responsibly in this House, and that is why we feel we have to adopt this vote and not reject it completely.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have the opportunity to speak to the estimates this evening. It is a chance for all in the House to reflect on the past and to give some thought to what lies ahead and how we can be most effective as members of Parliament.

Tonight as we begin this debate I certainly feel some satisfaction and a sense of comfort knowing that we have been able to actually make a difference in this Parliament, to have an impact on the federal government's budget process. For us, this is a day of celebration. We are on the precipice of advancing some very important legislation, some significant changes to the federal Liberal budget proposition that will enhance the quality of life in this country and ensure that we are investing strategically in areas of our economy that will put us on the path to great growth and productivity for future generations.

I want to take a minute to talk about the hard work of the NDP throughout this budget process. Once again I commend the hard work of our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, and my colleague, the member for Vancouver East, and all of the members of the NDP caucus who joined together in one determined voice to say, let us try to make a difference at this moment in our history; let us try to effect some change. We thought that would be impossible up to that moment.

The Conservatives basically rolled over and played dead. The budget came down on February 23. The leader of the official opposition took a cursory glance at the budget, walked out of this chamber and said to the world that he could live with the budget. The Conservatives would not vote non-confidence in the government on the budget.

We took a look at that budget and we said that it missed the mark, that it was contrary to the wishes of Canadians. It did not respect the promises made by the Prime Minister in the last election campaign. The Prime Minister said during the election campaign that there would be no new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy in our society until such time as money had been restored to those programs that had been cut over the years to ensure balanced budgets.

When that budget came down on February 23 with another round of tax cuts for corporations, we knew in an instant that we could not support the budget. Not only did the Prime Minister break his promise to Canadians with respect to another tax cut for large corporations, but he also failed to invest in several strategic areas that Canadians were counting on.

There was not a mention in that budget about education and about the need to make post-secondary education more accessible and affordable for our young people. There was nothing in the budget about the burden facing students after they graduate, the huge loans they have to pay back to the tune of $25,000 or $30,000. There was nothing about those families who desperately want to send their children to university but just cannot afford it. There was nothing about investing in our young people to build an economy for the future, to take advantage of the new economy around us.

To top it all off, there was nothing in the budget about the desperate situation that hundreds of thousands of Canadians are facing when it comes to decent housing. Imagine living in a community without certainty about safe housing. Imagine what it is like in some of the inner-city north end communities like mine where people cannot afford a safe, decent home because the cost is out of reach. Imagine what it is like when the government has pulled out of all of its housing projects and all the funds have dried up and some individuals and neighbourhoods cannot access money to renovate and improve old housing stock.

Imagine what it is like living on a reserve, in what have been clearly identified by impartial UN observers as third world conditions. There was not a mention in budget 2005 for housing, for making sure that everyone in this country has the right to safe, secure, decent housing.

There were more problems with the budget. I am not going to go into it all again. We know about the shortcomings with respect to the Kyoto accord. We know the government has missed the mark in terms of environmental planning and ensuring that we are able to preserve this earth for future generations. There was nothing in the budget in terms of meeting our commitment internationally, 0.7% of our GDP to be used for international aid and overseas development.

We recognize that the budget missed the mark. However, we did not just sit on our laurels and say that is it, that we will vote against the government no matter what. At the first opportunity we said, “Let us try to achieve those objectives. Let us try to fill the shortfalls. Let us try to deal with the neglect that we see in this budget by the federal Liberals”.

We entered into negotiations with the Liberal government in the full light of day, not as my dear friends from the Conservative Party like to suggest, in some hotel room or in the back seat of a car. This was in the full light of day. I know they are envious of the relationship that we established, this short term project that we worked on, this extended one night stand, but for goodness sake, they do not have to let their jealousy get to that degree.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

A one budget stand.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

7:50 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

It is a one budget stand, as my hon. colleague has just said.

In the full light of day we set out to accomplish something that was good for Canada, and we did it.

We arrived at a fiscally responsible plan that ensured there would be no attempt to have this government go into any debt or deficit. There was no thought of giving up on some contingency emergency fund to be set aside for sudden situations if they were to occur, and not to go into debt. No, we said that our plan was to use the money that had been set aside for another corporate tax cut for large corporations, because those tax breaks are not producing huge benefits for Canadians in terms of new jobs, new companies and new opportunities in this country. In fact, the government has been giving tax breaks to large corporations and all the while profits have been going up and up for those corporations and investment has been going down and down. The key to our future prosperity is not about giving more tax breaks to those corporations. The key is to invest in areas that will create jobs, meet social objectives and enhance the quality of life in this country.

How can the Conservatives oppose something that positive? It is a proposal that is fiscally responsible. It does not create any kind of deficit for the government. It does not take away the contingency fund. It is a transparent use of surplus dollars. It shifts money from tax cuts for large corporations and puts it into housing for Canadians, lower tuition for students, cleaner air for people who cannot handle the smog warnings day in and day out, and gives some assistance for those suffering from tremendous economic and social structural barriers overseas. It is a very reasonable plan that makes a big difference in the lives of Canadians.

We are here tonight celebrating the fact that with the help of Canadians we have been able to make a difference. The better balanced budget is not perfect. It does not have everything in it. We were not able to accomplish all we would have liked to. We did not get a big concession in terms of employment insurance. We would have liked that. We did not get some new commitments on pay equity. We would have liked that.

We managed some constructive steps forward and we did it within a fiscally responsible framework. That is something to be proud of. I know that Canadians are proud of it and want the budget bills passed.

I am sure that Canadians were appalled when they opened a newspaper and read about the Conservatives first playing games through the course of an entire sitting of witnesses at our committee and then gutting the bill and sending a blank page back to this House. The Conservatives took away the $1.6 billion for housing. They took away the $1.5 billion for education. They took away the $900 million for environmental projects and public transit and for retrofitted housing. They took away the $500 million for assistance overseas.

That is what the Conservatives did. They took away that which Canadians wanted. They are now being held responsible for that kind of irresponsible action. One only has to look at the polls. They dropped by 10 points overnight. They dropped like a stone in the polls, and rightfully so, as my colleague from Windsor has just said, because Canadians have sent us here to act responsibly. Canadians have told us to do a good job, to do something, to make Parliament work. Canadians do not want their members of Parliament to sit here and play games constantly and give them nothing but talk and no action. As one of my other colleagues said, all this talk and no action from the Conservatives is like a bad date.

Let us get back to the issues at hand. We have before us tonight the estimates for this budget year. We have before us two budget bills that are important for Canadians. We have before us a responsibility and a mandate to continue to make inroads, to make this country better than what it is, to ensure that we deal with some fundamental critical issues in our society today.

In the few minutes I have remaining, I want to outline a few of those points of where we have to go in the future.

We see Bill C-48, the better balanced budget bill as just a beginning. We do not see short term investments as the solution in the long run. We recognize there must be a responsibility on the part of the federal government to invest in lifelong learning. That means starting from early childhood and child care supports and going right through elementary and secondary and post-secondary education. It is not something that happens by neglecting an area like education and reducing the federal share of cash to provinces for education down to 11%. Whatever happened to this goal of shared responsibility between the federal and provincial governments?

We must build on what we have been able to accomplish through Bill C-48, in terms of the $1.5 billion for education and improving access for students.

We must build on the beginnings of a national child care program that we see in Bill C-43, something that has been accomplished after many years of broken promises. In fact, members well know that the commitment for a national child care program is the longest running broken political promise in the history of this country. We are finally at the stage where we have the beginnings of a national child care program. We are pleased with that development. It is a beginning step. It is the initial step in a long journey to ensure that this country has affordable, non-profit, quality child care spaces.

Contrary to the Conservatives who like to suggest that our society will come to rack and ruin if we proceed down this path, we say that we have a responsibility to families who choose to work, or who must work, to ensure that their children are in safe, secure, quality child care arrangements.

We have heard so much from the Conservatives over these last two days about choice in child care. For once, let us get this debate straight. We are talking about a policy to deal with working parents. We are trying to respond to the fact that there are thousands of children in unlicensed day care spaces. We are trying to deal with the fact that there are families, too many to count, who cannot afford or cannot find quality child care to ensure their children are in safe, secure, quality settings.

I hear the Conservatives yelling in the background as usual because they cannot grasp the notion that it is possible to combine work and family. It is possible to be a good mother and still hold down a job, like being a member of Parliament. It is possible to provide the nurture, love and caring that is required of mothers and fathers by their children and still hold jobs, provide for families and make a living, but it takes some help from government. It takes government working with communities to make it possible. It means helping families and communities from the ground up to ensure they can help themselves. We are talking about that.

This policy is not about trying to meet all the needs of every individual in our society. If parents choose to stay at home to care for their children, we have an obligation to ensure that policies and tax provisions address those circumstances. That is exactly what must happen, but let us not mix apples and oranges. A child care program to respond to the needs of working families is one thing that has been neglected for too many decades. It must not be allowed to languish for one week more.

Then the issue of dealing with whether our tax system is responsive to all family situations, especially in the cases where one parent chooses to stay home to care for the children full time, must be addressed. No one has said it should not.

It is absolutely irresponsible on the part of the Conservatives to suggest that by addressing one end of this public policy debate, we are taking away from another. We are not taking away choice. We are not denying the needs of all our citizens. We are recognizing the millions of children who now have a right to safe, secure, quality child care and early childhood development. It is as simple as that.

By investing in child care now, we grow the economy. We plan for the future. We ensure that there is a bright future for all in our society. That is but one example of where we must go in the future.

In the two minutes I have remaining let me also say this. In conjunction with lifelong learning, post-secondary and university education and child care, we must also look at achieving policies that ensure the appropriate balance between work and family. The work life balance issue must be addressed by this Parliament in the near future.

Too many families are struggling with the stress of trying to be excellent parents, good providers and contributing members of our workforce without supports that take into account the stress of juggling so much, ensuring there is food on the table and the needs of the family are taken care of with some time left over for themselves to have leisure activities and to enjoy the society to which they are contributing. That is another area for future work.

In the context of budgets, let us look at the issues of equality between the sexes and recognize that nowhere has the government yet achieved a simple objective to ensure gender sensitive, budget making processes and to look at the impact of our policies and decisions on women in the workforce. Nowhere is that more important than in the area of employment insurance.

We still have in practice employment insurance policies that discriminate against women because they want to work part time and care for their children the rest of the time. That is a perfect example for the Conservatives who say that they want to provide choice. If they want to provide choice, where are they when it comes to seeking something as simple as a change in the employment insurance rules so a part time worker is recognized as a permanent member of the workforce and is able to access employment insurance?

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

The Conservatives are against that.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

The Conservatives, yes, are against that. It is some choice they are offering Canadians.

Finally, we have a major issue with respect to fiscal imbalance. We must ensure that this federation is nurtured and cared for. We must put back on the agenda the issue of equalization, stop this kind of one-off, divide and conquer approach by the Liberals and start to look at this nation as one. We must recognize and ensure an equalization program is in place so the wealth of one area is shared by others and so everyone in this society is entitled to the same quality programs in health care, education, housing and social services. That is our aim.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment about the member's points on the housing and I have a question on the day care file.

As a starting point, I am sure the member would concede that it is not fiscally responsible, nor even possible, to address all government responsibilities and priorities in each and every budget. In fact, it is the series of budgets that we have to look at in terms of have we continued to respond to the emergent difficulties and problems.

However, I agree with the member in regard to the social housing issue. I spent a number of years on our local housing authority, rent geared to income and rent supplement. About 50% of the people using those services were seniors and 50% were family units. The vast majority were lone parent scenarios. Therefore, we know this is an important area in services to all communities across Canada. There are people who need help.

I agree that no matter where we provide the housing, whether it be at the social housing level or the affordable housing level, bringing in new housing stock means that other people can move and those in need can fill in those spots as they become available.

I am somewhat pleased that the housing issue continues to be of concern. We know CMHC is putting some $3.9 billion a year into its programs, mortgage insurance, et cetera. Is it enough? I do not think it will ever be enough to ensure that we deal with those in our country who are most need.

I know the member is very much involved in the day care and early learning side. Experts have said that it would cost about $15 billion to implement a full program of national day care plan, which I think is down the road. The OECD characterized existing day care arrangements in Canada outside of Quebec as being glorified babysitting, and this concerns me.

Does the member feel that the existing day care systems, which have been established throughout the country, have to upgrade their facilities and the quality of the people to ensure that our children get the full benefit of the early learning programs?

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, first, I appreciate the comments by my hon. colleague, both on housing and child care.

Let me just first touch on housing, since we both agree that it is a very important area of investment. I remind the member that while we share this concern, it was the NDP that moved the agenda forward by adding $1.6 billion to the budget for housing. There was zero in the 2005 federal budget for housing until the NDP proposed the additional money.

The Minister of Housing may be going around the country suggesting that he has a plan and that he would have done this anyway. He may have a plan, but he did not have the money. It is important for us to acknowledge that. Because Canadians spoke so strongly about this need, we made a commitment to include that demand in our negotiations with the Liberal Party. I might add, that investment alone is estimated to create approximately 26,000 person years of employment, so again evidence of the bang for the buck.

On the question of child care, which a very important issue, when the OECD looked at Canada and said that about our child care system, it looked at the country as a whole. The fact that we do not have a national child care program has led the OECD to comment that we have more like a babysitting service than a good early childhood program.

The OECD recognizes that provinces like Manitoba and Quebec have very excellent models that ought to be replicated across this country. However, what the OECD has said and what other economists in Canada have said, like David Dodge, is that the investment in this area is so important for dealing with productivity and for ensuring our economy grows. We cannot ignore this area or we lose in the long run. It is like cutting off our nose to spite our face. If we do not invest in these areas, we are only hurting ourselves in human terms and also in economic terms.

Let me close by saying that it was Charles Coffey from the Royal Bank of Canada who said that a child's brain development in the first six years of life sets the foundation for lifelong learning, behaviour and health. High quality early childhood education produces long term positive outcomes and cost savings that include improved school performance, reduced special education places, lower school dropout rates and increased lifelong earning potential. We have so much to gain by investing in the area of child care.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. friend's comments. When I listened to her boast about all the money the NDP had incited the Liberals to waste and to throw around, I began to think. Her leader is very much an outstanding spokesman for the silver spoon socialists who he represents in his downtown urban Toronto riding.

My hon. friend talked about a lack of fair equalization. Why was it not in the agreement? What the Conservative Party campaigned on in the last election was that all provinces be allowed to keep their natural resources and not have them clawed back, like the agreements with Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.

I understand the premier of the province of Saskatchewan is an awful negotiator. When the federal government tells him something, he listens and walks away. He does not negotiate. He does not stand up for it and maybe he listens to his national party leader who says that Saskatchewan is not important, Saskatchewan does not matter.

The essence of my question is this. When the deal was made or hatched in the back seat of a car or whatever the hon. member said, why were provinces like Saskatchewan forgotten? Why was there nothing for a fair equalization deal for Saskatchewan? Why was there nothing for agriculture? Between an NDP premier in Saskatchewan and a supposedly powerful new finance minister in the person of the leader of the New Democrats, why could nothing be done that would help areas outside of the very narrow corner of downtown Toronto, the only area of the country the leader of that party actually cares anything about?

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I guess the first response to my hon. colleague would be where were the Conservatives when the federal government brought down the budget? Did we hear any amendments from the Conservatives? Did we hear any suggestions? Did they have any kind of an agreement reached with the Liberals?

We heard the Minister of Finance at committee yesterday say that the Liberals had to turn to the NDP because they could not get anything from the Conservatives. They would not deal. They would not talk, or plan or propose. They are stuck in their rut and focused on one issue of having an election without any platform.

I would suggest that the hon. member read the subcommittee on finance which was initiated by the Bloc member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot. It was done explicitly to deal with the issue of fiscal imbalance and we attempted to deal with the matter of equalization.

We are not talking necessarily first and foremost about a budgetary provision. We are talking about trying to convince the federal government to start to negotiate seriously with provinces for a new equalization agreement that is based on a 10 province formula that includes natural resource revenue and that is true to the wishes of the premiers as expressed two years ago and ignored by the federal government.

The question again arises, where were the Conservatives throughout this debate? Did members hear the Conservatives suggesting we needed a new commitment to equalization? No. What the Conservatives suggest is that we need to move more in the direction of a patchwork approach to this federation. We need more one-off deals. We need more band-aid approaches. That is the Conservative approach.

At least the Bloc, although we may not always agree on everything, was able to recognize that there was a problem that had to be addressed and we worked together to try to find solutions. That is the issue before us today.

I know the Conservatives are envious. I know they are suffering from sour grapes and NDP envy. However, but I wish they would get on with the fact of recognizing they missed the boat and pass Bill C-43 and Bill C-48 so Canadians can access the money they want and we can get on with building a great country.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:15 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Cape Breton—Canso.

I spoke at a graduation recently and I was inspired, as I often am with our young people, by their motto: “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss, you'll fall among the stars”. It reminded me of the many unheralded accomplishments of the Prime Minister in his first term in office.

I remember that in two 20 minute speeches in the House I tried to list all of his accomplishments. I could never get through them all. I would challenge both the national press and the opposition to tell us of a Prime Minister in history who had accomplished so much in the first year.

Those accomplishments do not come from only the Prime Minister himself. He needs the support of his cabinet and particularly the administrative branch of the Privy Council Office, which works so hard and plays such an important support role in these accomplishments.

The press or the opposition might wonder why we are so high in the polls at the moment. If we stop looking inside the House and look outside for a moment, where we are not concentrating on only one or two subjects, we would see the big picture and the accomplishments. What kind of Canada do we see out there?

If we were to go out into the city here, we would see a vibrant, bustling city. There is lots of economic activity. The same would apply if a person were to go across this great nation. Beginning on the east coast in Halifax, going to Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon, Calgary, Vancouver and Whitehorse, we would see the same vibrant cities and communities across this country.

If we were to look at the poor and the families with poor children in this country, we would see that there are more programs to assist them. We would see this in the tax changes that we have made. Soon 850,000 families will be off the tax rolls completely. Those children will have a better economic situation.

We would see the best social programs since medicare. It would include the national child benefit that the government has been increasing year after year. We would see aboriginal head start which has been so successful for the aboriginal children of this country. We would see the national day care initiative, often for single parent families, allowing parents to provide a proper and educated upbringing for their children.

We would see a country where the disabled and their caregivers have more access to different programs and initiatives. We would see aboriginal people in this great nation, who for the first time have a government-to-government relationship. They are working on the major issues that they brought forward. They are working in partnership with us on major round tables in areas such as housing, economic development, education, health care, government and accountability for results.

We would see historic numbers of first nations people and aboriginal people now governing themselves in modern governments. They are doing so in some systems unparalleled in the world today.

We would see for the first time in history that rural Canada is more connected than most nations of the world. We would see new initiatives in rural health because of this connectivity. We would see long distance education that gives access to educational opportunities that rural people have never had before.

As we go across this country and turn outward from this House and from the media, members of Parliament would see what is happening with regard to the environment. We would see new national parks that we are so proud of in this country. We would see new underwater marine areas. We would see the unprecedented cleanup of contaminated sites. We would see all sorts of new and exciting initiatives related to air quality and greenhouse gases.

We would see thousands of energy efficient homes constructed with assistance from the government. We would see new auto emission reduction standards and world class agreements. We would see assistance for solar energy, wind energy, geo-thermal energy, small hydro, landfill gas and CO

2

sequestration.

We would see the green infrastructure programs in many communities across this country. These are some of the leading communities in the world.

We would see a nation that greatly supports and appreciates cultural diversity. That cultural diversity leads to the protection of individual Canadians, where we stand up for their rights. That cultural diversity that we built and celebrate leads to excitement in our communities that may not occur in other nations. Around the world that cultural diversity gives us a great economic advantage that other nations do not have.

As we go across this country, we would see flourishing universities, where we are leading the G-7 in the research investments that Canada is now making. Our students have access to the largest scholarship program in Canadian history with the millennium scholarship fund. We would see the unprecedented level of research funds where they can work in research during their senior education. We have the highest level of post-secondary participation in the G-7.

Some people say the north is the symbol of Canada. It is really what sets us apart. We would see a north that is having unparalleled attention being paid to it by the Prime Minister and the Privy Council Office. We would see a northern strategy and northern economic development fund that we have been after for years. We would see extra money to deal with the challenges in health care, infrastructure, new special transfer payments and unique first nations land claims.

As we go across this country and talk to our seniors, often the most in need in our society, we would see that they are being provided with increased pensions. We would see a reinvigorated new horizons program and all the types of activities that seniors love in that program. We have seniors who now have their own secretariat to ensure that their issues do not fall between the cracks. If these seniors happen to be veterans, we would see the new veterans charter. It is the first time since the great wars that we have reinvigorated and modernized the benefits available to those who have done so much for this nation.

If we were to look at our military, we would see the new foreign affairs strategy that includes: 5,000 more peacekeeping troops, 3,000 more reserves, new trucks, helicopters and utility aircraft, large investments in exercising northern sovereignty, and over and above this, $12 billion to fund all these new strategies. That is the largest investment in 20 years.

In spite of all these critical investments to build a Canada that Canadians want, individual Canadians and their companies are still enjoying the largest tax cuts in history of $100 billion. Canadians are enjoying the largest health care increase in history of $41 billion, and a whole new equalization scheme. The foundation of this great nation is to help those areas of the country at times when they need regional help. The Prime Minister and the PCO have been able to arrange, with all the provinces and territories, this whole new equalization foundation of Canada.

Canadians are proud of their new invigorated country, leading the world with peacekeepers in Haiti and Afghanistan, providing support for Darfur, helping with AIDS, malaria and TB in Africa, leading the world in the fight against polio, constantly increasing foreign aid, and leading the debt relief for poor nations. The Prime Minister pioneered the L-20 and the concept of a responsibility to protect.

Canadians all the while are safely blanketed in a host of security provisions and investments since September 11, and the knowledge that their citizens had the say and the Prime Minister had the courage to stay out of Iraq and missile defence. Canadians are enjoying a vibrant culture of song and theatre with unprecedented investments by the Government of Canada. These were huge needs to be true to our values in order to build the kind of Canada we all want

However, to make those massive investments, did the Prime Minister, the finance minister and the PCO undermine the tremendous fiscal strength that the Prime Minister built for Canada when he was finance minister? Definitely not.

We are the only country in the G-7 with a surplus. We have had eight consecutive surpluses, the first time since Confederation. We have stable inflation. We have reduced the debt by $61 billion, so we can make these investments in health care, the military, the disabled, education and the environment. We have the best job creation in the G-7, the lowest interest rates, a triple A rating, and billions in cost-cutting.

This is perhaps an unparalleled level of government achievement in the world, but rather than increase resources and rewards to facilitate this great PCO work, we face a Conservative motion to cut 0.7%. If I were a Conservative member with any hope of rebuilding a party, so it could once again be a nation-builder, I would be aghast at trying to make this 0.7% cut from one of the most remarkable administrations in history that has done so much for the poor, the environment, the military, cities, and the sick and homeless.

I implore all members of the House to support the PCO and the government employees who have done so much to make this the greatest nation on earth.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, maybe it is time we had a reality check. We have listened to the member speak for a few minutes and most Canadians have not experienced the things he is talking about. They are only seen and experienced by the fantasy in the Liberal caucus over there apparently.

I want to talk about some of the issues. The budget that he is so proud of has very little for agriculture, virtually nothing. In fact, I was particularly disappointed in the NDP when it made its deal with the Liberal government. It made a choice that it was not interested in agriculture at all and so there is nothing for agriculture in the special deal that it made. So, for the member to be standing there talking about what a great job the Liberals are doing for Canadians, he has left out a big chunk of Canada right there, just dealing with rural Canada and agriculture.

He talks about health. I come from an area where the NDP government in Saskatchewan has basically destroyed the health care system. It has shut down the funding and it comes from this Liberal government cutting back funding to the provinces, forcing the provinces to then download onto the local communities until many of them have no services left in those areas.

Why has the health care system been destroyed to the level that it has in the 12 years that the government has been in power?

Just today we found out that five single-person RCMP detachments will be shut down in my riding. There was no consultation at all. The RCMP are pulling back and pulling out of there. Again, it is an issue of funding.

The government has money for everybody. It is throwing it all over the place and it is not putting it into places where it is needed. People in my riding are going without while the government is making deals all over the place and throwing money in every direction except where some folks could use it.

We have five single-person RCMP detachments along the border. There will be a 70-mile stretch of that border where the nearest RCMP officer is going to be 50 miles away. Why is that happening after 12 years of this government? That is not all. There is a ton of other things.

He talks about seniors. If they are doing such a good job at improving the lives of seniors, why are we constantly getting letters from seniors asking that their benefits be raised. We just had a letter the other day saying that the individual could not live on $900 a month and was there something that we could do.? We have veterans calling in who cannot live on the pensions that the government is giving them either. I think it is hypocritical for this member to get up and to speak as he has because in so many areas in this country the Liberal government has completely failed people.

I would like his response, particularly on the RCMP issue. People are being left without the protection that they need because the government does not have enough money for those basic services. Yet, it is willing to spend money on all kinds of special areas where its friends can get that money instead.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, it is embarrassing that the side opposite does not know of the many government assistance programs for the people in agriculture. I will just list some of them. There is the deferral of taxation on patronage dividends. Preferred shares will benefit agricultural co-operatives. In June 2000, we launched a policy framework with $1.1 billion in annual funding. In budget 2005 there was $104 million over four years, including $2 million for farmers in Atlantic Canada. Right after the budget, there was another billion dollars for farmers.

The RCMP manages itself. It deploys its resources. It has come up with a better deployment strategy. The Conservatives and the Bloc were trying to tell management what to do.

What I found fascinating about the question was that for the first time we were asked some questions by the Conservative Party. We have had six months with no questions on: foreign affairs, veterans, mines, unemployment insurance, national defence, national debt, tax cuts for the poor, regional development, transit, the environment, Canada's role in greenhouses, culture, taxes, fisheries, the handicapped, Darfur and foreign aid. It is great that finally the Conservatives are getting on to an agenda and asking questions on the things that we are providing. The items that the member brought up are in our budgets. He should be supporting the budget and voting for those items tonight.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:30 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to join in this debate this evening.

The opposition motion really is central to the operation of the government. Many of the speakers here this evening have talked about the budget and the importance of some of the significant investments that are being made through this budget. If people are watching this at home their eyes may be glazing over as we look at the numbers being bandied about, in the billions of dollars, and the various program investments that have been made.

What I would like to do is speak to how these investments make their way to the provinces and the impacts they are having on the provinces, on communities and on individual Canadians. It is important and it is significant. That is what it comes down to: being a better country and investing in a great country. I think our strength is in our communities.

I will speak on behalf of the Atlantic Liberal caucus. There are many advances in the budget. There are so many positive aspects in this budget that will pay benefits and dividends to the people in Atlantic Canada. I want to identify a couple of them first.

There is one that certainly everybody in the House is very attuned to and aware of. It is probably one of the sexiest aspects when we look at Atlantic Canada. The one that got the play nationally was the offshore accord. That money is ready to be delivered to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and the province of Nova Scotia. It is a significant amount of money. It was a promise that was made by the Prime Minister during the last election and it is being delivered on. There was a long and protracted series of negotiations. Through equalization and then through the accord, this is one of the most complex federal-provincial deals that the federal government has.

The parties at hand, both provincial governments and the federal government, stuck to it and hammered out a deal. The Prime Minister went beyond the commitment he made. He went beyond the 100% offshore royalties and even provided for an upfront cash payment to each of the provinces. It is very significant.

For my own province of Nova Scotia, there will be $830 million in upfront money. It has already been identified by the premier that this money will be applied to our provincial debt. I commend him for this

Currently Nova Scotians carry the highest per capita debt in this country. I think this was part of the rationale and driving force behind the Prime Minister's election commitment to make sure that is dealt with, because the people in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are handcuffed with this particular debt.

That $830 million will be applied to the debt. In turn, that will loosen up between $40 million and $50 million annually for the province of Nova Scotia, which it can now invest in highways, education and various programs such as sport and recreation. This money will make it into the communities of Nova Scotia and will be of benefit to the people of the Atlantic region.

There will be $1.17 billion in the new equalization deal, which will provide for $151 million going into the province of Nova Scotia alone.

The money from the gas tax revenue has been debated and there have been questions asked in the House. There will be $145 million going to the people of the province of Nova Scotia. This will make its way into the regional municipalities, into the Cape Breton regional municipality and towns such as Mulgrave and Port Hawkesbury, into those municipal units that very much need the dollars.

From an Atlantic perspective, federal involvement in various aspects of the fishery is very important. I sit on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. Many of the challenges that we have faced, many of recommendations that have come forward from that committee, and many of the issues that we have dealt with in recent years have found their way into this budget. They have been addressed by having funding opportunities through the budget.

Let us look at a number of them. There is the Coast Guard, for example, and the brave men and women who serve the country in the Coast Guard. We have seen $276 million allocated to the Coast Guard over the next five years, with $117 million of that finding its way to the Atlantic provinces.

We will see investment in six new large vessels, two for offshore research and four for midshore patrol and protection and enforcement. That is a significant investment in our Coast Guard. We have heard time and time again that our Coast Guard is underfunded and that it needs the tools to get the job done. It needs the tools for protection and it needs the tools to support science. This commitment of money in the budget certainly goes a long way toward addressing that.

There is another benefit we will find in this as well: an investment in our shipbuilding. We will see activity. Some state of the art technology that is being advanced by our country's shipbuilding companies will benefit from this investment.

Another aspect of fisheries and oceans that is being funded is the oceans action plan. Sometimes it is taken for granted, but industries that rely on the ocean generate $22 billion annually for the Canadian economy. That is fairly significant.

We are concerned about the loss of marine habitat. We are concerned about the deterioration in stocks. We see $28 million over two years being pulled out in this budget, with $14 million allocated to the Atlantic provinces to implement phase one of the oceans action plan.

On overfishing, I recall that a number of months ago we had an emergency debate here in the House on overfishing. This minister and this government are committed to addressing overfishing. When we look at our responsibilities through NAFO and that whole regulatory area, we see that we have made an investment of $15 million on an ongoing basis to address the concern on overfishing.

The Atlantic salmon endowment fund is one that is close to me personally because the Margaree River is in my area and is part of my constituency. The Margaree River is really the whole focal point and the essence of the tourism industry throughout the Margaree Valley. The unfortunate part is that if there are no fish in the rivers there are no heads in the beds and we have no tourism industry.

The impact of acid rain on our environment and the fish habitat has taken its toll over the years. The budget includes $30 million for a one-time peel-out for Atlantic salmon to make sure that those stocks are healthy and sustainable for years to come.

Just to put it in terms we all understand, when we look at a commercially caught salmon we are looking at a benefit of about $3.50 a pound. For a salmon that is caught recreationally, it is about $35 a pound. That is because sportsmen come in from the United States and from all over Europe. They come and stay for weeks at Margaree and they fish salmon. It is important that we work with communities and special interest groups that continue to promote the health of Atlantic salmon stocks.

I want to make a point on regional economic development. Let us look at the opposition party and its position on regional economic development. I do not think it has one. I think this is something that party fears.

I want to tell the House that this party stands behind regional economic development. This party sees targeted investments, working with our business communities. Economic development does pay dividends. There is a great need in Halifax, Moncton and St. John's. Those economies are chugging right along. Those economies are doing so well for themselves.

Let me tell members something. If we are in rural Atlantic Canada and have a great idea with a great business plan and we take that plan to the bank, the bank is not very excited about supporting those initiatives. If the plant is in Mississauga or Hamilton and that business does not work out, the bank would not lose any of its investment, but it is a risk in rural Canada. The Conservatives across the way should know that it is the same in rural Canada everywhere.

Guaranteed loans are something we continue to support through ACOA and the investments in ACOA. This is an important budget with great investments through this budget. I encourage everyone in the House to support the budget.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Boulianne Bloc Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, my remarks and my question are for the two previous speakers who shared their time and who also share the same ideas. We were told there was a budget to fight poverty. We know there is a lot of poverty in Canada. We can see this in the statistics. It was also mentioned to us that it was a budget to assist families. It is the same for families: there is a lot of poverty.

The member concluded his speech by talking about rural regions. You know that we have a problem now. Some Quebec regions are emptying entirely because of the federal policies and the lack of investment. If budget forecasts or budgets are so good, why did the government change the summer career placement projects? This is one of the finest examples that we have.

For example, in the riding of Mégantic—L'Érable, I had $360,000 last year. This year, I have $200,000, a cut of about $150,000. This means approximately one hundred student jobs. What do you think the students will do? They will go to the big cities. That is the rural exodus.

We had the firearms registry scandal: $1 billion was spent, was stolen. We had the human resource scandal: $1 billion. We are now in the middle of the sponsorship scandal: $300 million. And now, it is the summer career placement scandal, so that young people cannot work in their region.

How can the member explain, if the government has so much money and the rural regions are developing, that we have projects that will entirely empty the regions? Moreover, he says this with a straight face, while being serious. I do not understand such speeches.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:40 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, in the last point I was making when my time expired I was speaking about rural development and what this government has done for rural development. I cannot speak specifically about Quebec, but I am very comfortable in stating that we have seen success stories in rural Atlantic Canada.

The point I made about the banks not wanting to support rural investment is a reality, but we are fortunate in Atlantic Canada that we have ACOA. It has guaranteed loans for businesses that want to set up in rural Atlantic Canada. There is a 92% repayment record on those loans. Any bank would be proud of that. The loans are given at preferred rates, but the federal government does get its money back. I encourage the people across the way to check this out.

We have seen investments in communities through the strategic community investment fund. One of the communities in my area picked up a 50 tonne lift. We could not service some of the bigger fishing boats in my community. They used to have to be towed and salvaged to Halifax. By investing in a key piece of infrastructure, now we are able to get that done.

We can go to that boatyard now and see 48 people on the payroll of this particular company. That is huge for this small community. Another thing is that it is a great saving to the fishers in that community. It is a great saving to those fishers who do not have to go up the coast to Halifax to have their boats repaired anymore.

I think there is investment identified in the budget to help rural communities and to help those that need the help through no fault of their own. I guess the easy thing would be if we all packed up the car and moved to Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary or Fort McMurray, but that is not Canada and that is not what this party believes in. We believe in the regions and we believe in rural Canada, and this budget supports rural Canada.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, all afternoon I have sat in my seat in the House of Commons and listened to the speeches from members opposite.

We heard about budgets, about money and about what is good for Canadians. We heard that the two tier Liberal day care system will be set up with very little money and resources and will be targeted only at people who live in cities, not at people in the rural areas and people on shiftwork. There is a real gap there.

I have heard about the gun registry over this past year and the billions and billions of dollars that have been wasted on that. I have heard about the lack of police officers on our streets and the lack of resources for our police forces to combat crime. There is little to nothing in the budget for that.

However in every one of the speeches I never heard members opposite talk about the waste in the Gomery inquiry and the scandal going on in our country right now of millions and millions of dollars being given away and lost.

Quite categorically, when members opposite are talking about the budget, they should talk about how they will pay back taxpayers for this terrible waste of money.

How can the member opposite talk about budgets when in actual fact a war room was set up to combat the scandal centred around the Gomery commission? Why do members opposite not talk about how they will pay back that money to taxpayers? I think people across this nation might then give some credibility to the budget if those issues were addressed.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government wants to get to the bottom of the scandal. I know the party across the way has been transfixed on the Gomery inquiry. The commission was appointed, it is moving its work forward and it will tender its report.

If members opposite want any evidence that the Canadian public is past this, I would suggest they might want to check the polls because the Canadian public has every confidence in Gomery, as does this government.

If those members would come forward with some policy, with something other than the Gomery, maybe the bleeding would stop.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:45 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the hon. member across the way that the bleeding will stop when the Canadian public vote the Liberals out and bring back responsible government, the Conservative Party of Canada.

It is a pleasure to rise tonight, along with a number of my colleagues, in opposition to the one million taxpayer dollars being spent by the Liberal government in a pathetic attempt at nothing more than Liberal style damage control. Let us start with the $1 million.

In late May the Ottawa Citizen reported that it had discovered the Gomery war room under the direction of the Privy Council Office. This war room, as mentioned in the newspaper, is staffed by four or five workers whose sole responsibility is to monitor the Gomery inquiry and provide advice to the Prime Minister's Office on how to deal with, or basically how to spin, the damaging testimony coming out of the Gomery inquiry.

Talk about adding insult to injury. As if Canadian taxpayers had not already been bilked enough by the government. The Liberals spent $250 million under the auspices of a sponsorship program to boost their profile in Quebec and help fight separatism in Quebec. The $100 million dollars of the $250 million that went out in commissions and fees to Liberal friendly ad agencies are at the centre of what the Gomery inquiry is checking into and the subject of criminal charges, of which there will probably be at least four brought down.

To date, the Gomery budget for the current year is $20.4 million and that figure could double after the next phase, bringing the tally for the inquiry to approximately $40 million. Add that amount to the almost $40 million in expenses for the four federal departments involved, the Department of Public Works, the Treasury Board, the Department of Justice and the Privy Council Office, and the overall tag is $80 million.

The public works minister has tried to contend that the money being spent by these four departments is not linked with Gomery's budget although it is directly related to the inquiry as a whole.

I am sure most of us in the House can think of much better ways to use the $80 million and the other $250 million that was spent on the sponsorship program. Over the last few days we have listened to the Supreme Court and we have realized that the health care system could use many more dollars. The injection of $330 million into a system that, as some would say, is in major trouble and in major need of a fix would certainly be much better used than in a sponsorship program.

The member was talking about Atlantic Canada but I am certain that agriculture throughout the country could have used the $330 million. It is not just that $330 million. Now we have learned that another $1 million is being misspent in the Liberal government's attempt to deflect criticism and mitigate the damage that is being done to its reputation. That is what the $1 million does. It adds spin and deals with damage control to the Liberals' reputation.

The issue of the Gomery war room was first raised in the House by the leader of the official opposition on May 23 when he asked the Prime Minister if he would direct the Liberal Party to repay the money. The Prime Minister refused, denying that public money was in fact being misused. He defended the Gomery war room saying that it was needed to “ensure the commission has the support it requires from the government”.

The kind of support for which the government was using that money was certainly not the type of support that Gomery was looking for. Before we went into the last election what Parliament was looking for was simple compliance by the government so that we could get to the bottom of the worst scandal in Canadian history.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House and the Prime Minister that the Gomery inquiry and the ensuing cost of $80 million would never have been necessary if the sponsorship scandal had never been a reality. If the government had not misused the dollars initially, all these millions of dollars would not be in question here tonight.

I would also point out that the Prime Minister has promised to call an election within 30 days of Gomery releasing his report. However there is absolutely no guarantee that the report will be brought down in a timely manner. The release of the report could, for all we know, be withheld until after criminal proceedings are concluded, which could take months. We have seen this before: cannot comment, a criminal investigation is underway, will hold off on the report. This is not out of the realm of possibility with those guys.

Last month when the member for Newmarket--Aurora crossed the floor, the Prime Minister made a big deal out of the fact that he had appointed her to implement the recommendations arising from the Gomery report. The member justified her switch to the scandal ridden party and tried to paint herself as a hero in that she had been tasked with cleaning up the mess. She does not have a broom big enough to clean up this mess. The member may have been empowered on paper to implement the recommendations but those recommendations will be swept under the carpet by the election that is supposedly to occur within 30 days after the release. Her appointment in my opinion is nothing more than more smoke and more mirrors.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Lumsden--Lake Centre.

The sponsorship scandal is proving to be the worst scandal in our country's history. We have heard sworn testimony that the Liberal Party received cash for sponsorship contracts. These are not just allegations or innuendoes. I remind the House and Canadians that this is actually sworn testimony under oath, which is subject to perjury charges if it is found to be untrue or deliberate.

This testimony clearly shows that the Liberal Party has been firmly entrenched in deception and fraud from the beginning until end. I see the minister shaking his head. As most members on this side of the House are preparing for elections, we are out fundraising and trying to raise money. We tell our constituents that we are funding an election and we ask if they could kick in $10, $100 or whatever. Those guys are using taxpayer dollars to fund election after election.

As stated earlier, to add further insult, the Liberal government is using one million taxpayer dollars to fund and staff a war room that has been established solely for the purpose of damage control. No amount of money in my opinion will help the Liberal government spin its way out of this scandal.

When the Auditor General reports that it is the mother of all scandals, the biggest scandal in Canadian history, the government responds by asking how it can set up a war room and how can it get taxpayers to fund it. Canadians are not that naive and for the government to think they are is perhaps the greatest insult of all to Canadians.

As requested by the Leader of the Opposition, I ask the Prime Minister to dismantle his Gomery war room, to pay back the money that the Liberal Party of Canada has wrongfully used to fight a political battle, a battle that was not of Parliament's own choosing and a battle that was not placed upon him by Parliament, but rather a battle that was placed upon him by the corruption that just happens to be in that party.

Main Estimates, 2005-06Government Orders

8:55 p.m.

Charlottetown P.E.I.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talked about the sponsorship issue which was a troubling set of circumstances involving a small number of people. The Prime Minister took very decisive action. He cancelled the program and immediately appointed a commission of public inquiry.

Instead of attacking the judge conducting this public inquiry, we on this side of the House are supporting him. We will wait for his recommendations and we will deal with his recommendations once they are made.

While we are on the issue of corruption, I want to ask the member opposite about the former leader of his party. The last Conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, left this country in a mess. It was bankrupt. Months after he left he went into a hotel room and took $300,000 in cash from Karlheinz Schreiber. I ask the member across, why was the money paid in cash. Why was it paid? Under what basis was it paid? Should a public inquiry be called? Does this not suggest corruption at the highest level we have ever seen in this country, political, private or otherwise?