My colleague the member for Burlington said that is correct.
It is more important than ever for us to tell Canadians what the Conservatives want us to pass today. They want Bill C-28 to get through the House, into the Senate, and then to receive royal assent so all is finished and done.
Today we are deciding on whether or not the Conservative budget should be given any kind of support and treated with any sense of credibility and integrity.
I remind members and all Canadians who are watching that we are dealing with a budget that was an absolute missed opportunity for the vast majority of Canadians who are struggling to make a living. Canadians want to provide for themselves and their families. They want to contribute to this great country. They have much to offer by way of talent, energy and expertise but are being denied from doing so because of the regressive and repressive policies of the current government, and the governments before it, that keep working families down, that do not lift them up and encourage them to contribute.
This holiday season it is more apparent than ever what kind of a Canada the Conservatives and the Liberals together are creating. It is important for us to remind Canadians that there is an alternative, that there is hope, that there are other ways to approach the way budgets are done and the way this country is ruled and regulated.
The New Democratic Party has always said when it comes to budgets that they are a road map. They are an indication of where a government wants the country to go. We look at this budget in terms of how it would build a better future for everyone in our society.
We have always said it must be a balanced approach. We are not here to suggest all extra revenues should go into spending programs. We are not here to suggest there should never ever be a tax cut to anyone in our society. Nor are we here to suggest that no money should go against the debt. We are here to say that a good budget, one which we were hoping the Conservatives would have brought in, would actually balance those competing demands and would ensure that all areas were recognized and treated responsibly. That means addressing the shortfall in those programs that actually help people make a difference. It means redressing the 13 years of the tightfisted, budget cutting, meanspirited ways of the Liberals.
A good budget would ensure that a portion of any surplus, not all of it, not the whole kit and caboodle, but a portion of it went against the debt.
A good budget would look at the income distribution in this country, at which groups are trying to make ends meet, and ensure that where possible some tax relief went in the direction of people who need it the most.
What did we get with Bill C-28? A budget that basically ignored all of the needs of Canadians in terms of health care, child care, housing and the environment. It gave more tax breaks to the wealthy and big corporations, and in the aftermath of the budget the government put every penny that was left in terms of surplus against the debt.
Canadians did not get the balance they were looking for. They did not get the good government they thought they were getting when the Conservatives were lucky enough to form the government of this country. Much as Canadians are very skeptical about Conservatives, after 13 years of Liberal rule, they were certainly looking forward to some sort of change and had some optimism about the future, but they were sorely disappointed. We have to continue to find ways to address those concerns.
Let me also say that since this budget, as I mentioned at the outset, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge, lots and lots of water. Included in the list of things that have flowed under the bridge is $1 billion worth of cutbacks that have hurt Canadians in very many ways. It is something that has to be addressed in this context because we are talking about a budget and we are talking about the future.
When the Conservatives had a chance to redress some of the wrongs of the Liberals, to right things and to bring balance, they chose to follow the Liberal path of letting the surplus build up, not announcing it and dealing with it before the final days of the end of the fiscal year. Consequently they put $13 billion against the debt and at the same time cut $1 billion out of programs and important areas for Canadians. I want to reference a couple of them, because we need to go back and persuade the Conservatives to right a few wrongs.
The first has to do with literacy. As I have said over and over again, how could a government, if it is concerned about giving people the tools they need to contribute to this economy, cut the very ground out from under those people? How could it destroy the very things Canadians need in order to gain the skills to participate fully in this world?
Time and time again, the Conservatives have suggested that the cutbacks to literacy were all administrative.