Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate the motion. I will be splitting my time with my esteemed colleague, the member for Mississauga South.
The motion accurately describes the present situation in which we find ourselves. The motion reads:
That, in the opinion of the House, the government inherited the best economic and fiscal position of any incoming federal government and has not demonstrated the need, value or wisdom of its announced expenditure cuts which unfairly disadvantage the most vulnerable groups in Canadian society.
As I said, I completely agree with the motion. We have seen that almost every federal government department has felt the wrath of these meanspirited cuts. What is all the more confusing is that they have done this when we, as a nation, are enjoying one of the best fiscal periods ever.
Perhaps the Conservatives need a reminder of the financial record of our Liberal government. We posted eight consecutive budget surpluses, the longest string in our country's history, experienced record job growth, debt reduction and low interest rates. First home buyers were able to buy affordable homes under our mandate. We started the process of paying down the federal debt, some $55 billion, which saves $3 billion each and every year going forward. We also, though given that, were able to cut taxes for Canadians, the largest cut of taxes in Canada's history of $100 billion. At the same time, we were able to invest in health care, with the health care accord, some $41 billion to improve the health of Canadians.
The bold economic agenda set out by the Liberal government allowed Canadians to invest in our families and businesses. It allowed our government to invest in the social programs we as Canadians all value, such as health care, child care and education.
There is more. As I said, we had debt retirement, investments in research and training, job creation, low unemployment, low inflation and strong sustained economic growth.
I will talk about one thing we did not do. We did not take advantage of the poorest and most disadvantaged in our country. Programs such as literacy programs, the court challenges program and many others are very important to my constituents in Etobicoke North and, indeed, to Canadians across this land.
We have heard details earlier in this debate of many of these cuts. I would like to focus on the cuts in natural resources. I do this because I am our party's critic for natural resources. Here we have seen a number of cuts that do not seem to make any sense whatsoever, programs such as the wind power production incentive program, the EnerGuide for houses retrofit program, funding to fight the mountain pine beetle program, programs for the development of new base metals, the leading edge long telescope system, or VLBI, are all gone. All these valuable programs are gone.
At a time when the country is experiencing unprecedented fiscal prosperity, the government has decided to attack and slash these important programs. At a time when we need to improve our energy efficiency, when we need to conserve energy and we need to encourage alternative energy sources, the government has shown a callous disregard for programs that we know are working and working very well.
In reference to the EnerGuide program, in spite of very clear advice from the departmental experts to keep these programs alive, the minister and the government decided to scrap this effective and popular program. The only reason we can deduce it did that is for ideological reasons, not for reasons of program efficiency and effectiveness.
However, this was a mistake that needs to be corrected. There is no shame in that. In this case, it is clear to everyone that a mistake was made.
Clifford Maynes, executive director of Green Communities Canada, asserted that the elimination of the EnerGuide program could set back the residential energy efficiency file by at least 10 years.
On average, this program was achieving about 30% energy savings for homeowners. The $75 million that was spent in the program, from October 2003 to March 2006, will yield $975 million in energy savings over the life of the retrofit investments. The government must recognize this error and reinstate the program.
We heard from the minister that 50¢ out of every dollar was for administration. We know this is not correct. The deputy minister clarified this at committee and indicated that 12¢ out of every dollar was for administration.
It is also very hard to believe that the wind power production incentive program has been frozen.
With the rapid development of the wind energy sector in Canada, which is proving to be one of the main contributors to the diversification of energy sources for the next 20 years, now is not the time to freeze or cancel such important programs.
The Liberal Party recognizes this fact, as did the Liberal government, which is why we committed to expanding the wind power production incentive in the 2005 budget, by quadrupling the previous program and by promising $200 million over five years.
The private sector's response was very positive, and so were industry comments on the program.
The recent report of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has said that the wind power production incentive program has stimulated investment. It goes on to say that there is broad-based support for the program from provincial governments, companies and utilities.
In fact, we know that many provinces, like the province of Quebec, are planning a huge expansion in window power. Wind power has the potential to offer a very real alternative. It is not the complete solution nor is it the complete replacement for fossil fuels, but it has great promise. We need to encourage and provide the incentives necessary to keep that program moving forward.
The decision by the Minister of Natural Resources to freeze further funding for this program is imperiling this important industry and imperiling many jobs and investments. For example, every one megawatt of installed wind energy capacity in Canada generates $1.5 million in investment and creates 2.5 direct and 8 indirect person years of employment. If 5% of Canada's electricity were generated by wind energy in 2015, and I think we have the potential actually to move that benchmark up to 20% of our total energy needs in Canada, this development would produce $19.5 billion in investment and create 32,500 direct and 104,000 indirect person years of employment.
Therefore, given that this program was being used, that it was effective and that we all recognize wind energy is an important component in Canada's future power supply, we must immediately reinstate this program.
I could go on. There are other areas that have been cut and slashed from this important portfolio of natural resources. The government has hacked and slashed for crass political reasons and has done so at the cost of our environment. Some very important programs were working well for all Canadians. They were moving us closer to our objectives of reducing greenhouse gasses and creating a better environment for ourselves, our children and our children's children.
Axing these important programs is severely hurting Canada's ability to fight climate change and control pollution. The government must be held accountable, and we on this side will ensure that this happens.