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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ndp.

Topics

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Yukon Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, as the experienced member knows, we are not allow to use gimmicks in the House. I am sure he will apologize to the House when he gets up for his answer.

Let us just recap, for those who were not here yesterday. As members will remember, yesterday morning the Conservatives embarrassed themselves by not having anyone who could discuss the bill. In the afternoon a member made an excellent presentation on affordable housing. However, the rest of the members were using the same speech from the researchers, with the exact same sentences and words. It looks like they are starting down the same path today by not speaking about the bill.

He mentioned 10 topics and none had anything to do with the bill. However, perhaps the member could comment on the elements of the bill. I know it is very difficult. I have sympathy for the members opposite. Their party is the only one in the House that could possibly argue against transit, or clean air for Canadians, or foreign aid for those in need in other nations, or assistance for children who cannot get even one full meal a day, or affordable housing so other people in Canada can have a chance to have a house for their families like the rest of us and or post-secondary education, especially for aboriginal people who may not have that opportunity.

Could the member comment on one or four of the elements in the bill?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the three or four areas of spending that appear in Bill C-48 as a result of the hotel room deal that was made with Buzz Hargrove and the NDP may have some merit in the essence of them, but there is no defined commitment or detail on where the money will go.

The government and the member for Yukon are basically asking us to accept that the ministers would be given a blank cheque of $4.5 billion to develop some programs on whatever the flavour of the day might be. Business is not done that way. If they thought those programs were so important, then they should have been included in the original budget. When the finance minister was creating the 2005-06 budget, which became Bill C-43, those items should have been included in it and defined in a way that would show how the money would be spent and what the results of that spending would be. Then it could have been sent to the finance committee for debate and amendments rather than trying to ram Bill C-48 through the House as a result of a deal made on the back of a napkin with people who are not even politicians. This deal was made with the NDP to help the Liberals keep their sinking government ship afloat.

There is a procedure to introduce spending in the House and it must be accompanied by a defined plan on how the money will be spent and how it will be accounted. That is not present in Bill C-48. We will never support a bill like that in the House. It is absolutely irresponsible. The Conservative Party is not an irresponsible party. We are responsible and we will show that when we form the government in the next election.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are insisting that something is missing out of Bill C-48. They are insisting there is no indication in the bill as to how the money would be spent. If those members would be honest and upfront with Canadians, they would tell them the truth. The approach used in Bill C-48 is the same approach in each and every budget. It is written down in a general way where the money will go, but we do not get all the specifics.

Just for once those members should try to be honest with Canadians.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I implore the Liberals to be transparent with Canadians, to be accountable to Canadians, to be honest with Canadians when they put spending amounts forward in the form of legislation. Bill C-48 contains nothing of that. The Conservative Party and I will not vote in support of it, ever.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place between all parties concerning this evening's proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 52 and I believe you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That during today's proceedings pursuant to Standing Order 52, no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be entertained by the Speaker.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Does the hon. chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose this motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-48, an Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to take just a minute to speak on Bill C-48.

Contrary to what the opposition has been claiming, this is not the budget. The budget per se of course is a document that is read in the House and tabled under a ways and means motion. We then have a list of companion bills to implement the overall thrust of the budget.

The first one, the main budget bill, was Bill C-43. It was adopted and sent to the other place. Now we have the second, the companion bill, pursuant to an agreement that was made between two parties of the House, and which I must say in my opinion improves upon the document that was there already. It delivers additional benefits to Canadians.

It does not rewrite the budget. It is not a new budget. It is nothing of the sort. That is simply nonsense. If we did all that, if it was an overall change of the kind described by the Conservatives across the way, we certainly would not be affecting only a small fraction of the budget.

Let us get a few facts straight, because we are a little short on facts today. That is mainly due to the fact that too many Conservatives have spoken and not enough Liberals. That would provide a shortage of facts. This is definitely too heavily weighted on the Conservative side.

Let me bring a few things in balance which might assist the House, hopefully convince the Conservatives of the error of their ways, and perhaps even convince them to vote for Bill C-48.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh!

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I hear the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke heckling. I was writing my memoirs and reminding myself of the day that I went to make an announcement in Haley Station in her riding. The evening before, my staff gave advance information to the hon. member. Instead of respecting the usual rules of confidentiality, she leaked the whole thing to the media, trying to grab a few of the headlines, and even invented for herself some praise as to how she had influenced the process.

The story gets a little bit funnier, because a little later after the announcement was made we returned to the House and the hon. member's seatmate was standing right beside her questioning the same program that she had been praising in her own riding just a few minutes before, namely, the technology partnership program. Thus, we had an Alliance MP, now called Conservative, which is the same thing anyway, standing in the House telling the Prime Minister that, first, it was terrible that we had the technology partnership program and, second, that it assisted companies like Bombardier.

Meanwhile, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, still wearing egg on her face from what she had just done, was sitting right beside the member and it was obviously unbeknownst to her that her colleague was criticizing the program that not only was she complimenting but was taking credit for bringing to her own constituency.

That tells us of the Conservatives' inconsistency and how they can be wrong about good Liberal programs. In that case, and it is a rare exception, the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke was right in praising the program. She was wrong in taking credit for it, of course, and we all know that, but she at least was on the right track in that regard.

In any event, let us get back to the fiscal and economic facts of Canada. It is important for us to note that under this very competent Liberal government we have had eight consecutive budgetary surpluses, reducing our federal debt by $61 billion.

The House would no doubt want to know how many times the previous Conservative government had a balanced budget and a budgetary surplus. How about zero for the previous Conservative government? It never had a balanced budget, not even once, let alone the repayment of old debt. More than half of the accumulated debt of this country was generated between 1984 and 1993 when I sat on the opposition benches there, watching the Conservative government of the day.

Canada was the only G-7 nation to record a surplus in 2004. You would know that, Mr. Speaker, being the independent, objective person that you are. Canada is the only G-7 country expected to remain in surplus in 2005-06, that is, with the passage of Bill C-43 and Bill C-48, we will be the only G-7 country to be in a surplus.

I remind the House of what I said a few moments ago about the Conservative years. That is the reality. They can try to spin it every which way they like, but it does not change facts.

Let me get to some other facts here. The debt to GDP ratio of this country, that is, the debt to gross domestic product ratio, is now 41%. Shortly after we took power it had risen to 68%. It went from the second highest in the G-7 to now the lowest debt to GDP ratio, thanks to the Liberal government that we have now. The hon. members across the way obviously did not know of this when they said they were against Bill C-48. Perhaps listening to these clarifications will make them change their minds.

Furthermore, there are tax cuts of $100 billion for Canadians. The Conservative members do not mention this, of course.

We could talk about corporate taxes, which are in many ways more advantageous here than in the States. The Economist says that, in terms of a political environment attractive to investment, Canada is second in the world behind Denmark and ahead of the United States. This is an achievement of our government.

The members opposite do not mention this. They might do well to listen. Better yet, I have statistics that might convince a reasonable person who thought otherwise. This might leave out some of the members opposite, as they are not always reasonable.

We have increased our commitment to health care. There is a lot of discussion about that. We made $63 billion available in support to the provinces for health care between 2000-01 and 2007-08. We provided more money for the child tax credit. We improved the Canada pension plan by investing funds and by creating the regulatory framework that everyone is familiar with.

We have invested. A little earlier today, one Conservative member was speaking about investing, a member for whom I have a lot of respect and who is usually knowledgeable on issues involving research and so on. I am sorry, but I forget the name of his riding. He talked about not investing enough in research and innovation.

I do not know how much is enough, but we have invested $13 billion in research and innovation, turning Canadian universities and research centres into world leaders, including, for instance, the synchrotron in the province of Saskatchewan, which I had the pleasure of visiting during my last days as a minister. I guess time flies; it is a year and a half now since I have had such a function.

Let us end by talking about unemployment. The Canadian economy created 35,000 jobs last month alone. There is 6.8% unemployment now in Canada, compared to 11.2% when we took power, and three million more Canadians are working today than when we were elected. I will be leaving in the next election, but I will be proud that three million more Canadians are working since I crossed from the opposite side of the floor to this one.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister spoke in this House when he was talking about his budget. He said he had consulted many Canadians and had arrived at a balanced budget. In fact, when the Leader of the Opposition spoke to him to see if he would make any changes to the budget, he said only technical changes, not substantial changes.

Yet when the government was faced with a non-confidence vote, it was prepared to spend $4.6 billion to buy the support of the NDP members, simply for the purpose of staying in government. In addition to this, we found that constitutionally when a motion of confidence is raised in this House, directly or indirectly, there is an obligation on the Prime Minister to call a non-confidence vote of his own. For a week, without any constitutional authority to continue to govern in this House, in my mind, he used the levers of power and the levers of government to buy additional votes simply to stay in power.

Furthermore, the member has indicated that he has visited Saskatchewan. He should have visited Saskatchewan more recently, when there were 49 auction sales in my constituency and 179 auction sales in Saskatchewan. Farmers are going through the greatest crisis of their lifetimes. Husbands and wives and sons and daughters are working to try to survive on the farm. It is the greatest crisis they have ever faced.

Meanwhile, this government is throwing around $4.6 billion. It is making a deal with the NDP and spending $4.6 billion but with nothing for the farmers of Saskatchewan in that deal when they are in the greatest crisis of their lives. Why is that?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I sympathize very much with the plight of farmers, both in the constituency that I represent and the hon. member's riding.

I do not think the hon. member was here in the previous Parliament, or perhaps he was, when a number of us worked together in the hay west campaign to assist people in another part of the country. The member may remember my involvement in that campaign. The Saskatchewan federation of municipalities gave me recognition in that regard and I appreciated it very much.

On the issue of assistance to farmers, the hon. member will know, of course, that although it is not part of the companion document, it was part of the other one. The hon. member will know that.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Small units--

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, he asked a question. He should listen to the answer.

The hon. member is arguing, of course, that there is not enough assistance to agriculture. For the beef producers of my area, and of course for the dairy producers and in regard to the cull cattle and so on, there is only one long term solution and that is opening up the Canada-U.S. border. We all know, of course, that this is the case. Some 50% of all the cattle produced in Canada are for export.

The hon. member asked me to comment on the legitimacy of the government. I believe he asked a question about the confidence vote. He will know that a motion referring something to a committee is not a confidence vote. No one really believes that, and I suspect that not even he does.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

June 21st, 2005 / 3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Jim Gouk Conservative Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the hon. member mention that he was writing his memoirs. While I disagree radically with the hon. member's politics, I do respect that he is someone who likes to get things right and who works very hard at his job. I would like to make three points for the hon. member relative to what he said today.

First of all, he kept referring to the Conservative Party under Brian Mulroney and in the past. I would like to remind the member that his was the Progressive Conservative Party. Like the Alliance Party, and certainly like the government with all its faults now, each of us had some problems in the past, so we formed a new party using the best of both of those organizations, with a new policy and a completely new platform. He is talking apples and oranges.

Second, the Progressive Conservative Party that he refers to as adding this high amount to the debt was subject to the highest interest rates in my entire lifetime, international interest rates, not Canadian interest rates. Around the world at that time, interest rates were the highest that they have ever been in my lifetime. Right now, this government, while taking credit for what it is doing, is subject to the lowest interest rates in my entire lifetime.

Finally, the point I would like to make to the member is that the highest amount of debt that we have ever had in one year in this country, adjusted for constant dollars, was under a Liberal finance minister named Jean Chrétien.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for some of his points. He talked about the high interest rates. I remind him that when the interest rates were at their high during the Reagan right-wing years, the Canadian rates were higher than the U.S. rates. Under this government the Canadian rates have been at par with or often lower than the U.S. rates because of the excellent management.

The hon. member corrected me about the Progressive Conservatives versus the present Conservatives and I do apologize for that. I do not want anyone across the way to think that I accused them of being progressive.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I was certainly pleased to hear the member's speech. I would like to bring the member up to date on some other facts, because he gave us many facts. I will start with 12 or 14 years ago when we became involved in what are real problems for this country. That of course was the serious debt that the country was getting into.

I remind him that in 1969 we had zero debt. Under Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Chrétien, who were then the prime minister and the finance minister, it went to $18 billion by 1971. By 1984 it was up to $170 billion to $180 billion. From there it went up to $480 billion by 1993. Of course today it is at $530 billion. Basically, some $40 billion a year is spent simply on interest payments.

That is what concerned us. That is why we came here. Our philosophy was to leave money in people's pockets, let them spend it with less government, less bureaucracy. That was the philosophical reason behind why we came here.

Of course, we came to a tax and spend Liberal government and that has not changed. The fiscal recklessness of that party is only demonstrated by Bill C-48, the Buzz Hargrove budget, where $4.6 billion was spent to buy 19 votes in a hotel room in Toronto.

My constituents are seniors and low income single moms who have to pay their income tax. They are farmers who have the lowest grain prices they have had for many years. They are young farmers who are losing their farms because they cannot make their mortgage payments because of the cattle crisis. Imagine what they think about this hotel room budget drawn up on a serviette. Really it is a blank cheque.

I remind the NDP and the Liberals that is the way to get sponsorship, to get ad scam, the way to get Shawinigate, the HRDC boondoggle and the gun registry, the nine foundations where money has been socked away unaccounted for and not audited. That is how to get a blank cheque which is what we have received from this. There are few details. There is no accountability. Certainly from my perspective and from my constituents' perspective, this is a disgrace.

As far as the environment is concerned, there is $900 million budgeted and $800 million for rapid transit. Obviously we think that is a worthwhile project. We would like to see some details, however. We would like to know how that is going to be invested, how it is going to be accounted for, and how we are not going to lose it all in bureaucracy. As far as the $100 million that environment gets, again I am sure that the Liberals will find a way to dispose of that with no business plan, no vision and really no long term planning.

What else has the government done? The last speaker talked about how great we are and how we are leaders in so many areas. Let me mention a few examples, and I hope the member has his pen in hand so he can take notes on this. As the critic for the environment, I feel it is my job to read into the record some of the statistics for the member's benefit. He and I have been here quite a while now, he for much longer than I have, but he would be interested in this.

In terms of sulphur dioxide, the OECD rates us 27th in terms of our release per capita out of 28 countries. For nitrous oxide, we are 25th out of 28. For volatile organic compounds, we are 25th out of 26 analyzed. Does that possibly let the member know why we have a record number of smog days in Toronto, Ottawa and many other cities? If he looked at those figures, he would see that we are at the bottom or within one position of the bottom. For carbon monoxide, we are 26th out of 27. For greenhouse gas emissions, we are 27th out of 29. For water consumption, we are 28th out of 29.

I will try to go a little slower so the member can get all of this down. In terms of energy consumption, Canada is 27th out of 29. For energy efficiency, we are 28th out of 29. In terms of recycling glass and paper, we are 23rd out of 27. For hazardous waste production, we are 24th out of 27. For nuclear waste and storage, we are 28th out of 28. For consumption of ozone and ozone depleting substances, we are 13th out of 16 analyzed. For fertilizer use, we are 25th out of 28. For the volume of fish caught, kilogram per capita, we are 20th out of 28. For forest consumption in cubic metres per capita, we are 27th out of 29.

Members can see that this country is at the bottom in terms of environmental rating. That is not the kind of stewardship that I think the member would like to brag about. Obviously he decided to ignore some of those figures in his comments when he was bragging about where we were at.

Again I come back to the taxpayers who are asking, “What is happening? What is the government doing? How can it come up with a budget of $4.6 billion after it has already come out with a budget of $170 billion plus? How can it do that?” It is strictly politics. The Liberals are playing politics with our country.

Members who have travelled very much can see that when they go to other countries. They see how our influence is declining. We are not able to maintain the status we used to have largely because the government has lacked vision. It has lacked a vision of where we are going. There is no plan. There are no details. The government has no direction.

As a result, while the last speaker said that our country is a great success story, I would put forward from an environmental perspective that it is anything but that. Actually, we have a long way to go. When we talk about it, we should put some options forward.

What would the Conservatives do? I have elaborated a number of times in the House on some of the things we would deal with. We would deal with a clean air plan. That would deal with all of the products that are producing the pollution and smog that is infecting our cities and causing health problems for so many of our seniors and young people.

We would deal with the water. We would map our aquifers and deal with how our water exchange is occurring. We would plan with the provinces just how to deal with that. We would deal with the cross-border issues. Whether it is the St. Lawrence, the Great Lakes, Devils Lake or the Fraser Valley and the Sumas River, we would deal with those as issues and we would have a plan. The environment takes long term planning.

In terms of soil, we have contaminated sites. Just about every municipality has brownfields, such as a street corner where a service station used to be but which closed long ago. Services pass and the municipality gets no taxes from that area. If we really want to help municipalities, we can help them find solutions to clean up those brownfields.

Along with that, of course, there is conservation. There is preservation of our watersheds. That becomes most pertinent when we look at some of the flooding and so on that is occurring today.

Finally, we need to deal with energy. We need to deal with how we are going to protect our present fossil fuel industries in the long term, how we are going to develop conservation, transitional fuels, alternate energy and all those exciting areas we can get into.

Above all, it takes vision. It takes a plan. I say that Bill C-48 is an example of no plan, no direction and is considered to be totally despicable by the constituents in my riding.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague invited me to note some of his remarks. I was pleased to listen to the entire speech, but there were a couple of things missing from what he said.

The hon. member talked about the environment. It is a big concern for many of us. He no doubt will remember that it was his own party, perhaps under his leadership--I forget whether he was the environment critic then--that opposed so ferociously the Kyoto accord, where all countries need to get together to improve on the quality of the environment.

I live in the province of Ontario downwind from the Ohio-Mississippi Valley. I know what it is like to live in the area of that smog. I have lived here all my life. Most of that smog is generated in the United States, more particularly, a lot of it in the states of Ohio and Michigan.

In addition, he will no doubt know that under the Conservative premiership of Mike Harris and his successor in Ontario, there was no action on the plans which probably by now would have shut down the largest source of pollution in North America, the Nanticoke coal fired generating station on the shores of Lake Erie. None of this happened after the years of Conservative government that we had in Ontario. The Government of Canada does not generate electricity at Nanticoke. That is the largest single source of pollution.

Second, I never was satisfied, nor were my constituents, as to why the member so vehemently opposed the Kyoto protocol enabling Canada and other countries to get together, put pressure on the United States and anyone else who is not joining in so that we can together fight the pollution that exists in the northern hemisphere.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Mills Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's question gives me an opportunity to explain to him and this House again why supporting Kyoto is just a pipe dream, why it is not going to achieve any of the things that he supposes it might.

I should remind him as well that it was the Liberal government that last week decided not to close the coal fired power plants. I would like to explain to him again as simply as I can that Kyoto is about greenhouse gases, largely CO

2

. CO

2

is not part of pollution. It is not part of smog days. Smog is caused by sulphur dioxide, nitrous oxide, particulate matter and surface ozone. That is what smog is. If every country in the world signed on to Kyoto and lived up to Kyoto, it would not change the smog issue very much because it is not targeting the right thing.

The bureaucracy of the whole Kyoto protocol is what the problem is. The problem as well is that the U.S., China and India are not part of this whole program.

I am glad he brought up coal because coal is pretty interesting. What would we do? We would promote the gasification of coal, technology that is 60 years old that is being used in other places and that is being really promoted in the U.S. Think if we developed that technology and became world leaders. We have enough coal in Canada to last us several hundred years. The Americans have approximately 1,500 years' supply of coal. Think about gasifying that.

Right now, if we developed that technology and could promote that technology, think of what we would do. Some 81% of China's electricity comes from coal; 78% of India's electricity comes from coal; 57% of the United States' energy comes from coal; 25% of Ontario's energy comes from coal; 70% of Alberta's energy comes from coal. Think if we developed the technology how much better it would be to market that technology around the world than it would be to send money to foreign countries so that they can develop the technology and compete with us.

How does that make any sense at all, sending money offshore when we could develop it and use a made in Canada development of technology? That is why we oppose it, because it is not going to accomplish the targets. We will not hit our targets and neither will most other countries signing on to Kyoto.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I was ready to ask a question which I have been trying to do all day, but I am happy to enter the debate and then perhaps we could still have an exchange.

It was disappointing to hear the comments made by the member for Red Deer about how much his party would like to see real development of clean coal technology as part of the answer to the climate change problem that we are dealing with.

One of the things that the Liberal government did when the finance minister, now the Prime Minister, decided to swing a meat axe at public spending in general was to make the biggest cuts to environment spending in the history of this country.

The Conservative Party, and to be fair it was then the Reform Party before it became the Alliance, was absolutely silent on the decision of the government to shut down important research that was taking place at the time in Cape Breton in the coal industry. His party was silent on how to develop clean coal technology, to get it on track, and to ensure that we could both continue to use coal in a safer, cleaner way and at the same time continue to be responsible to meet our environmental commitments.

In some ways, one of the things that makes this debate hard to stomach is the fact that we hear day after day from the Conservative members of the House about the sins and omissions of the Liberal government. For the last couple of weeks since the devastating Supreme Court decision on health care, we have heard from the Conservative benches again and again that our health care system is in crisis. We have heard how we now have two tier health care alive and well and progressing. That is actually a legacy of the Liberal government and it has been brought to us compliments of the former Liberal finance minister who is now the Prime Minister.

That is in part true, but it is also true that the Conservative official opposition was front and centre, used its might and muscle to scream, yell and demand cuts in social spending. When we heard the bragging of the then finance minister that his Liberal government had reduced social spending to the lowest level since the second world war, the Conservative official opposition did not do a thing to use the opportunity that its numbers to get the government to stop taking us down the road to two tier health care. Why? Because that party, not in words but in fact, supports that direction.

Now we are dealing with the debate on Bill C-48. We have heard member after member revile the NDP caucus because we are propping up these corrupt Liberals. That is why the Conservative opposition says that it cannot support Bill C-48 because this will be propping up the corrupt Liberals.

That begs the question and sort of circumvents the question that if that is the position of the official opposition on Bill C-48, that this is nothing more than the NDP propping up corrupt Liberals, how is it that the Conservatives in about 10 seconds of hearing the Liberal budget before the amendments and the changes brought in by Bill C-48, and before the add-ons that in fact make it a better balanced and more progressive budget, could not wait to get to the microphones fast enough? The Conservative leader was out before those microphones endorsing that budget in a whipstitch. Why? It was because he liked that budget a lot. It had massive tax cuts. That was the explanation given.

How was that not propping up the corrupt Liberals when the Conservatives stood up and said that they were going to vote for that budget? How was it not seen by them as a confidence vote and that they would be somehow evasive and irresponsible about not saying that they were prepared to support this budget?

It is a little hypocritical. There is a little problem in that it is convenient to criticize the Liberal budget. I would have thought the Conservatives would have a much harder time defending Bill C-43 with their constituents than the better balanced budget that we now have as a result of Bill C-48.

I would have thought that Bill C-43 would be more difficult for the Conservatives to defend in their constituencies who sent them here. After the massive cuts that the Liberal government engaged in, particularly affordable housing, post-secondary education, environmental initiatives, public transit and international development assistance, how could the Conservative official opposition not support the program to begin restoring some of the funds to those fundamentally important initiatives?

I keep listening to hear some rationale for why the substance of Bill C-48 is unsupportable. We heard last week and we heard again earlier this week, because it is convenient politically for the Conservatives to say so, that the Liberals wear the responsibility. It is the Liberal Party's legacy for having put our public not for profit health care system into such crisis and into such jeopardy, and we need to do something about that.

How is it not possible for this official opposition to not see that the same is true with respect to post-secondary education? The Liberal government has put our post-secondary education system into crisis with its reckless, unilateral massive cuts.

Applying the logic that governments should keep their promises, there is not one member on the Conservative benches that does not know that the Prime Minister, during the election campaign in 2004, committed to restore up to $8 billion that was gutted from our post-secondary education core funding. It was a specific commitment made to begin the restoration.

The NDP better balanced budget does not for a minute get us to the restoration of the core funding that would ensure that we could begin the rebuilding. Without the NDP investment of post-secondary education funds, that is contained in Bill C-48 that those Conservatives are going to vote against, we have only reached the level of post-secondary education core funding that was in place in 1995.

Ten years later we do not have it. However, these Conservatives cannot even bring themselves to begin the process of rebuilding the post-secondary education infrastructure, the quality of education having been significantly eroded at the same time that tuition fees have skyrocketed. They have skyrocketed because of the massive withdrawal of funds at the federal level and because of the weakening of needs based grants for students. Nobody on those benches seems prepared to acknowledge that they are about to vote against the restoration of at least $1.5 billion in funds of the $8 billion taken out.

Similarly with affordable housing. I heard several people in the rhetorical flourishes say that we need to ensure that people have affordable housing, so their families can live in comfort and dignity like the rest of us. The member for Central Nova said that as well as some others.

It is a known fact that we had in this country the best social housing program of any country in the industrial world. Canada was seen as a model. We were invited to go around the world and share that model with people. It was eliminated by the Chrétien government. The Conservative bench is not prepared to restore at least $1.6 billion toward rebuilding that affordable housing.

I look forward to debate some of the substance in the better balanced NDP budget that is contained in Bill C-48.

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax was quite eloquent about all the wonderful imaginary things that would supposedly come through this budget.

I remember reading this short bill and thinking of all the different shell games the Liberals have played over the years. They say one thing and do another. I will give the House an example.

For many years there has been bracket creep, a de facto tax increase because of inflation. It is a tax hike which is automatically built into the system. When the Minister of Finance and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance stopped those systematic and continuous tax hikes after many years of criticism from the Conservative Party, they claimed it was a tax cut. It is weird and twisted logic that the lack of a tax hike is a tax cut. I use that as an example because whenever we look at a piece of government legislation, we are not always sure what we are getting. For example, a lack of a tax hike being calculated as a tax cut.

When I looked at the bill, I began to see what it was. It was vague generalities without any accountability. I believe $500 million is listed for foreign aid. Knowing the reputation of the government and how it defines things, I thought that it could define subsidies to a business connected to the Liberal Party or perhaps to many other things as foreign aid instead of something substantive and real such as money for wells in Africa, immunization programs et cetera.

We in the Conservative Party are not naive about how the Liberals do things. Why were the NDP so naive as to actually believe the Liberals meant what they said? How does the NDP know that at the end of the day the Liberals will not play shell games with the finance books, make spending adjustments in other areas, and that this will actually come to pass?

The hon. member believes that every last expenditure in the bill would build a better society. Fair enough. I do not necessarily agree. Does she actually believe, with the government's lack of credibility, that it will actually deliver?

An Act to Authorize the Minister of Finance to Make Certain PaymentsGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I cannot even tell members how much I welcome that question. That is a wonderful question for us to debate here. I feel that we could actually begin to deal with the substance of Bill C-48 if we could continue down this path.

I do not believe that the Liberals can be trusted to just deliver what they have promised. God knows, there is a lot of evidence that they cannot be. But that brings us to the question of what is the responsibility of opposition members who are elected to this place.

Sometimes I think the Conservative Party has such a problem with power envy that it does not have any intention of using the official opposition numbers it has in the House and it is not prepared to understand that it is the job of members of Parliament to try to make this Parliament and government work. The way in which we are challenged and charged with making government work is to take the privilege that we have been given as members of Parliament to come here and advance the things that Canadians need.

I intend no disrespect to the Speaker's rulings when I say this, but it is pretty obvious that the opposition bench has no respect for the rule of relevancy, never mind consistency. We are debating four specific measures to do with affordable housing, accessible education and better training, cleaner air and public transit, and finally beginning to meet our commitments to overseas development assistance, something the Conservative Party has actually voted in favour of at committee level but cannot vote for here.

We are debating those four measures in Bill C-48. What I have heard from those members in just the last few hours is discussion about bracket creep, conditional sentencing, prostitution, pornography, age of sexual consent, gun registries and tax havens. I have to wonder if these members have any interest not just in making this minority Parliament work but in making government work at all.

I will go back to the question that was raised. Do I trust the Liberals to do what they say they are going to do? Not for a moment. I am here to make sure they do what they said they were going to do. That is how a democracy works and that is especially how a minority Parliament can work.

The more I listen to all the talk coming from the Conservative corner about corruption, lack of accountability and broken promises, the more I think that Canadians must actually be asking themselves what the official opposition has been doing. If there have been this many problems with the Liberals, I would say there is a pretty big indictment of the Conservatives' failure to do their job in getting the Liberals to deliver on what they have promised and to get the Liberals to be held accountable for any corrupt measures or malpractice that is going on.