Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise and speak in this House, although the motion that we are debating today is not one that I am crazy about.
I have the pleasure to follow my colleague, the House leader for the opposition. We were all very thrilled with his performance yesterday in this House. He gave a very bountiful speech, if I may use that word. He was able to address a number of key topics pertaining to this motion that has been put forward by the government, but also a number of other strong issues that we have contention with, the bills that are leading to the extension of the sitting of the House. I speak of BIll C-48 and obviously Bill C-38.
I do not know that I can do as good a job as he did. He spent two hours talking about such pertinent issues and enlightening this place. I know we were all in awe with his ability. I will do my best to speak against Motion No. 17 that we are speaking to today.
My colleague from Sarnia—Lambton spoke in great detail of the precedent that this is setting and the precedents that have been set in the past.
I would not mind taking a moment just to read the motion into the record so that everyone who is following this debate is clear as to exactly what we are debating. The motion reads:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice, when the House adjourns on June 23, 2005, it shall stand adjourned until June 27, 2005; at any time on or after June 27, 2005, a Minister of the Crown may propose, without notice, a motion that, upon adjournment on the day on which the said motion is proposed, the House shall stand adjourned to a specified date not more than 95 days later; the said motion immediately shall be deemed to have been adopted, provided that, during the adjournment, for the purposes of any Standing Order, the House shall be deemed to stand adjourned pursuant to Standing Order 28; commencing June 27, 2005 and concluding on the day on which a motion that the House stand adjourned pursuant to this Order is adopted, the ordinary hour of daily adjournment on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays shall be 12:00 midnight;--
That sounds a little awkward. Obviously for those watching at home it is tough to follow that kind of a motion and really make sense of it. As we heard yesterday, my colleague the opposition House leader put forward an amendment to the motion. It says that according to normal practice, after tonight, the Standing Orders indicate that this House is to rise and be adjourned, and that we strike the rest of the motion that was a little bit confusing and just add that we will return to this place on September 12, which is closer to the current Standing Orders than obviously what the government is proposing.
As my colleague the member for Sarnia—Lambton said, this motion seems to be completely unnecessary, especially as it is changing the Standing Orders for political purposes.
The member for Sarnia--Lambton did indicate that we have seen this before. He rightfully pointed out it was the Conservatives who in fact did that in 1988. Unlike him, I was not in this place at that time, so I do not have the personal account that he was able to relay, but I do recall studying it. I was a student at that time here in Ottawa. I watched what was happening. I remember watching members such as the member for Sarnia--Lambton taking part in debate and being in awe as to what was happening.
I do recall that at that time there was a sense of urgency as to why the Standing Orders were being changed. The issue was free trade. There was some great concern about the timing of that particular bill going through the House and the effect it would have on our economy, and the effect it would have on millions of Canadians, and rightfully so. Clearly, there was a concern as to why the Standing Orders were changed.
We have to address the point that the member for Sarnia--Lambton made, that this attacks the fundamentals of our Standing Orders and the democracy of this particular chamber. The opposition House leader tried to address that point yesterday. Very clearly this is an attack in essence on the way this place functions.
It is frustrating to no end to see those sorts of changes being made by the government. My colleague from Sarnia--Lambton said how vehemently the Liberals opposed the changing of the Standing Orders in 1988 when the government of the day was trying to do it, even though the urgency was definitely there over the time that we have now.
The other thing he was clear to point out which I think we have to be concerned about is that the government is trying to legislate by exhaustion. If one looks around the chamber there have been high emotions, especially with the issues we have been dealing with in the last few weeks. There have been a lot of different opinions. Many of our constituents are looking forward to the return of their MPs back home to do the business that they would be doing in their constituencies.
If we take a step back we see that we have passed Bill C-43. It is currently in the Senate but as we know, the Senate is holding that up and it is out of our control. There has been a sense of urgency with the budget. We supported it to get it through. There were some measures in it with which we could agree.
Now that it has passed this place, the urgency of passing the budget has been deflated. The fact is that with Bill C-48 and Bill C-38, there is no sense of urgency. We could follow the normal Standing Orders, return back home, hear from our constituents and deal with those two pieces of legislation when we returned as normal under the Standing Orders. Again, to use the language of the member for Sarnia—Lambton, changing the Standing Orders for political purposes is really unfortunate. The Liberals are undermining democracy in this place in doing that. The government says it is necessary.
This is to follow up on the reason we are dealing with this motion to extend the sitting. The government says it is necessary to pass the legislation to allow the budget to pass. As I just said, that in fact is false. It seems to me that the Liberal Party continues to play an absurd game with the very budget bill that the Liberals accused the Conservatives of blocking, Bill C-43.
The original budget implementation legislation which includes the Atlantic accord is now being held hostage by a Liberal dominated Senate, which is really beyond my belief. I do not understand what is going on. The government is obviously dominating the Senate. Why now after all that urgency is the Senate holding up Bill C-43? The Liberals I guess have never been really serious about passing the bill. If we could in fact get that bill through the Senate faster, and let us face it, the Conservative senators have said they would be willing to deal with it in one sitting, we could actually get the money for Atlantic Canada, and for the Canadian cities and municipalities that are waiting for it. It would be able to go through a lot faster and we could in fact have that money flowing before we returned in the fall.
It seems to me there is something going on. It seems the government is informing its senators to hold this legislation up. At the FCM convention which I attended recently with the Leader of the Opposition, I challenged the government. We could have dealt with the new deal for cities and municipalities and with the Atlantic accord if the Liberals were willing to remove that part out of the budget. I think they would have had consent from this House to move those pieces of the budget forward so quickly that the money could have been flowing today to those people who need it. But we are dealing with political games and we did not even hear why the Liberals would not remove that portion of the budget. They have added on this new NDP budget that they are saying is so urgent. Why could they not make that particular change to get the money to the people who need it the most?
It is not just my words or the words of my colleagues. We know how much the government House leader likes to quote from editorials. Let me quote from today's editorial in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald which deals with this very subject. It is very informative about the games that I think the Liberals are playing. It goes like this:
The Liberals delayed passing the Atlantic accord through the Senate on Wednesday, and the Tories say they're doing it in a cynical attempt to put pressure on Tory MPs. The Liberal House Leader in the Senate, Jack Austin, turned down an offer from Conservative Senate Leader Noel Kinsella to go to clause-by-clause consideration of the bill last night. If he had accepted the offer - a fairly common procedure - Bill C-43 would have passed today, the bill could have received royal assent this afternoon, and Nova Scotia and Newfoundland would have immediately received big cheques from offshore revenue deals reached with the Liberal government. The deals, reached after months of tough negotiations, are worth $830 million to Nova Scotia and more than $2 billion to Newfoundland, but the federal Finance Department can't cut the cheques until the budget bill is passed. The Liberals don't want the Senate to pass C-43 until the House passes C-48, the $4.5-billion NDP budget amendment, Mr. Kinsella said.
“It's pretty bad that the Liberals would not accept putting through to royal assent their own budget bill”.The Liberals added Bill C-48 to their budget to win NDP support, and the Tories are strongly opposed to the new social spending it contains. When it went to the House for second reading, the Speaker had to break the tie to get it passed and prevent the Liberal government from falling.
This is an editorial that was written today in the Halifax newspaper. It basically says what games the government is playing when in fact we could have this money flowing. It is still holding up the bill in the Senate. It does not make a lot of sense to us who are ready to get that money flowing, and we could actually get out of this place without changing the Standing Orders, the motion that we are debating today. It begs the question, what are the Liberals doing? They have a majority in the Senate. It is their budget. What are they afraid of?
It continues to be demonstrated to us and I think to Canadians that the only reason they keep playing these games is not because they are legitimately concerned about a lot of these issues that they say they are, but because they have a serious issue about hanging on to power. They want to cling to power. They are playing games to do that. They are cutting deals with people in order to save their own political skin.
We are dealing with this motion today, because they have actually neglected their responsibility over the last few weeks in getting this legislation through the House a lot faster.
Our party is strongly opposed to the two major bills, as mentioned by a number of our colleagues, what we call the dangerous and reckless spending in Bill C-48, but also the same sex marriage legislation.
As the official opposition we are not in the business of helping the government pass legislation that we do not think is in the best interests of the country. That is what our House leader said yesterday. We will vote against any extension of the agreed upon calendar so that the government can make up for its own mismanagement of the legislative schedule. We will have as many members as possible in the House to vote on these bills, including the confidence vote on Bill C-48.
I would like to talk for a few minutes on the spirit of Motion No. 17 and why this motion as it relates to Bill C-48 needs to be defeated.
Bill C-48 outlines a host of new spending. I mentioned that in the earlier part of my speech. Canada could have more and better paying jobs, a much higher standard of living, but Ottawa taxes too much and spends too much. We have seen that from the amount of the surpluses over the past number of years. Since 1999-2000, program spending has gone from $109.6 billion to $158.1 billion, an increase of over 44%, a compound annual growth of 7.6%, when the economy itself managed to grow by only 31.6%, a compound annual rate of growth of 5.6%.
We cannot support this motion because it is the curse of the Liberal government that once the Liberals have our money, they cannot resist spending it even faster than the economy is growing. It is not surprising that there is so much waste within the government.
I would like to identify a couple of examples of waste which point out even stronger to a party like ours, the opposition, why we should not give a blank cheque to the government in Bill C-48. I do not have to remind the House and Canadians that the firearms registry is a perfect example of that. The government said it was going after the criminal use of firearms. In the end, we had a piece of legislation that was supposed to cost Canadians $2 million. In fact there are estimates that it is reaching, if not exceeding, $2 billion.
How can there be that kind of exaggerated cost unless there is not a plan in place to deal with it, not to mention the annual cost of that particular program. What sort of value has come back to Canadians on that? Can we actually say we have prevented crimes with guns, that we have actually gone after the criminals and not the duck hunters? I do not think we would find even very many members on the government side who can claim that it has been a successful program. That again came from wasteful spending and without having a clear plan as to how the government should spend the money. The government is asking us to give it that trust again in Bill C-48.
We also saw an unfortunate situation. We know what the problem was in Davis Inlet where we saw children high on gasoline and a lot of other social problems. What was the answer? It was to throw money again at that problem without a real plan.
Now the community has been moved not too far away from where it was originally located, at a cost of about $400,000 per person and the problems have continued to follow. Unfortunately, we have not seen the improvements that we would have liked to see from this kind of social spending. Again, it is the lack of a plan and a knee-jerk reaction to spending.
All of us know how close we came in 1995 to losing the country because of a lack of vision from the current government. What was the solution? Let us throw money at Quebec and try to buy votes through the sponsorship program. What did we get as a result? A complete waste of taxpayer dollars.
We have what we all know as the sponsorship scandal and the continuous fiasco surrounding that with inquiries. We have seen the continuous corruption on the other side. It just proves the point further that it is difficult for the opposition to give free rein to a government which has demonstrated time and time again its inability to manage taxpayer dollars.
I have given the House a few examples here today. I think we could even point to more because more seem to be coming up on a daily basis. We have seen what has happened in Technology Partnerships Canada. My colleague from Edmonton—Leduc has been pressing for an audit to be done on that department. We have seen other examples of that sort of waste. Therefore, it becomes very difficult for us to say we can endorse Bill C-48.
In the years 2003-04 and 2004-05, the Liberals could not help themselves. Program spending rocketed by almost 12%. Per capita program spending by the federal government has reached its highest point in over a decade and it is scheduled to go even higher in the future.
Before we pass the motion and allow more time for Bill C-48 to be debated, perhaps we should look at the record when it comes to budgeting practices of the Liberals. I have talked about the spending, but their budgeting is not that much better.
In 1996-97 real federal program spending per capita was just over $3,000. It will have risen to just over $4,000 in 2005-06. That is an increase of about $800 per capita in volume terms, or just over $3,000 for a family of four. Current Liberal-NDP spending plans will take that spending to almost $4,600 by 2009-10. That is a projected increase of almost $1,200 per person.
Increases in government spending do not necessarily point to solving problems or even getting better results for Canadians through their services. I think most Canadians today would agree. If we look at our health care system and other areas of our social fabric, they have all been damaged by the way the government has managed its budgets as have the services that Canadians continue to get back. Yet they are taxed higher than ever.
It is incredible that the finance minister continuously gets up in this place and says that the government has delivered tax relief to Canadians. If we ask Canadians if they have seen any real tax relief over the time the Liberals have been in power, they will answer quite overwhelmingly that they have not seen anything realistic or substantial handed back to them. Clearly this is something that needs to be addressed. It continues to prove the point why it makes it so difficult for us to support Bill C-48.
We have always believed on this side of the House, especially when it comes to the surpluses, which my House leader spoke to yesterday, that a surplus is the result of the government taxing too heavily. Some of that money should be returned to Canadians, especially when the value for the services is not coming back to them the way it should.
We feel that $1,000 more in the pocket of an average Canadian will go a lot further than in the hands of the government, which seems to misspend their tax dollars. A great example of that would be a $1,000 of savings put into an RRSP, which would initially be worth $1,160. After 30 years, at a rate of 5% return, $1,000 a year invested in an RRSP would be worth nearly $81,000. A $1,000 invested outside of an RRSP at a 5% rate of return would be worth even more in 30 years.
Clearly, we know the government has lost sight of this in its wild attempt to tax, spend and often give very little value back to Canadians, as we have seen. We maintain that we should look at an option of taking the surpluses and looking at effective and meaningful ways to give that money back to Canadians. They are struggling on a daily basis. Many of them cannot make ends meet. Why not give that money back to Canadians so we can have a more productive economy, better paying jobs and Canadians can take care of themselves. We believe hard work should be rewarded. Unfortunately, we are not seeing that.
For the reasons I have identified, it is clear to us in the opposition that we cannot support the motion to extend the sitting of this session on the basis of the wild spending proposed in Bill C-48. It also is an attack of democracy in the House and on the Standing Orders, which we should all be respect and follow, as agreed to by all members in the House.