Madam Speaker, we have all been working very long and late hours and very hard on behalf of all Canadians. It is my privilege tonight to speak to Bill C-48, not only on behalf of all Canadians but particularly on behalf of those in my riding, the residents of Clarington, Uxbridge and Scugog.
It is important that the work of this House not only make promises to benefit Canadians but deliver on those promises. Tonight we are debating Bill C-48, a deal made to buy votes, a bill for up to $4.6 billion of taxpayers' dollars.
The issues covered in Bill C-48 are important to Canadians: the environment, public transit, low cost housing and post-secondary school education. All of these issues are important to Canadians and they are also important to the Conservative Party of Canada, but decades of neglect in these areas have created a resource challenge.
Since 1997 the government has repeatedly underestimated surpluses and accumulated $63 billion of surplus. Meanwhile, provinces and municipalities were struggling.
I ran in the last election to join many others at every level of government; provincial, municipal and federal, to work for the people in their ridings. I came to this House wanting to work in partnership with every level of government and with every person in this House.
However, as a consequence of over a decade of starving the provinces and, consequently, the municipalities, currently we have situations where there is a fiscal imbalance between levels of government. There is a mismatch between revenue raising capabilities and the responsibilities posed to the provinces and the municipalities.
The municipal level is responsible for basic services that the people want and need, such as housing, transit and social services. Yet this federal government continues to be rich, rich in surpluses, while our cities and municipalities continue to be poor.
When I spoke to the budget in April, I said, “It is imperative that all Canadians have a clear picture of the budget and how the government plans to implement the budget and its promises”. But Bill C-48 gives us no details, no plans, no programs and no accountability as to how $4.5 billion will be spent, $4.5 billion not of the Liberals' money, not of the Conservatives' money, not of any party's money, but the money of the people who pay their taxes.
In committee, the Conservatives tried to put forward amendments that would ask the government to table a plan at the end of every year to report on how that money would be spent. The Conservatives also posed an amendment to ask for accountability and transparency mechanisms. The government would not support these two simple amendments.
These people, my riding, my voters, want to ask this government, what is wrong with filing a plan? What is wrong with accountability and transparency mechanisms? Why could the government not support these amendments? Why will the government not ensure that it will indicate with clear commitments that it will deliver on the promises inherent in Bill C-48?
Why not? Because this budget, this bill, is only an enabling legislation. It is a contingent budget. As the parliamentary secretary to the minister said only a matter of mere hours ago, this is an “enabling” budget, an enabling piece of legislation. It is not “mandatory” spending.
I want to point out to everyone in Canada that the minister and the government have clearly articulated that this is not mandatory. How do we know this money is going to come forward to address these important issues for all Canadians?
This budget is a contingent budget. It is contingent on surpluses. It is contingent on ensuring that there will be programs developed, that there will be a plan put in place and merely enabling what? It enables one minister to spend $4.6 billion with no accountability, no timetable, no priorities to be established.
This is only a bill which was part of a deal to buy votes, and this is not good enough for the people in the riding of Durham.
In the riding of Durham, we enjoy a quality of life. We have mixed urban and rural communities. We have some of the best agricultural land in Ontario. It is made up of small towns, villages and hamlets. They want to ensure that this quality of life will not only be maintained and returned to what they enjoyed a decade ago, but they want security in jobs. They want security in their livelihoods. They also want the government to represent them with the values and the integrity that they live by in their daily lives. They want health, safety, education and security not only for the young children, the youth and the adults, but also for those in retirement.
The people in my riding, the families and the citizens of Durham are a community of values and principles. They insist on integrity within their own families, within their community and from their community leaders and from their governments. If we do not maintain a level of integrity in government, what are we leaving for the next generation?
These issues are important. It is not good enough to deceive. It is not good enough to just promise. We must deliver on whatever promises we make.
We want to make sure that we can continue to live in Durham and enjoy the environment, enjoy good quality housing, transit and education, not in the short term but over the long term.
On education for the long term, we have a commitment here for education for two years. What about those who will graduate from high school three years from now, four years from now, five years from now, and six years from now? Why do they not deserve some consideration in lower tuition? Why will the government not make an ongoing commitment to support those youth who will be graduating and possibly going to the newest university in the province of Ontario that is in the region of Durham, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology?
The people in my riding also want to ensure that we take care of the environment. Part of that is ensuring that we try to encourage as much use of public transit as possible, but not only for two years. An ongoing commitment must be made for transit. A two year commitment is not good enough. Where are the dollars for after two years?
If the region in my riding which is now considering regional transportation undertakes to buy those efficient buses, et cetera, hire the drivers, increase the public transit service in my riding, what happens after two years? Where are the dollars to keep those buses and those drivers operating? How are we going to keep paying those drivers? A two year public transit program is not good enough.
On infrastructure, I have watched it and I have seen it over the last decade. Infrastructure deteriorates. What happens after two years? Where are the dollars to maintain those roads? We see right now the state of our infrastructure because of a decade of neglect.
We have to make sure that low income housing is there, not just a program to energy retrofit low income housing. What is energy retrofitting? How many new houses and rental units will that provide?
This bill lacks so much in detail. Where will the dollars go? How will they be delivered? How much will come to my municipality, to every citizen, to every bus rider, to the people who have to now depend on a family member to drive the elderly and the disabled to the hospital, which is 60 kilometres away?
We want real service provision. We want dollars, a commitment to real infrastructure improvements. We want to make sure that the municipalities all share equally in the $4.6 billion that is in Bill C-48. We do not want a short term deal. We want a long term commitment.