The member for Burlington said it is true. Unfortunately, he has been given a bill of goods by the human resources minister, because it is absolutely not true. The government has proceeded to cut the heart and soul out of programs that actually deliver services to Canadians.
I want to reference about 200 letters, all of them handwritten, from individuals who have benefited from programs that provide literacy and numeracy training. I want to read a couple of them so that my friend from Burlington and his colleagues will have a better appreciation of just how hard people are being hit by the Conservatives' actions.
In this first letter, the writer is referring to the Luxton adult learning program.
This program (the Luxton Adult Learning Program) means that I am able to keep my job at the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. In August 2004, I was granted the privilege of an interview after many years of trying to gain employment into their many different medical secretary fields. I attended the University of Manitoba and Herzing Career College as a mature student. After searching for years on Winnipeg's adult literacy programs, I found the Luxton Adult Literacy Program. It was the right and beneficial program for me. Let me explain.
After graduating with a diploma in hand from Herzing Career College in 1986, I worked for sole proprietors, small clinics and the Misericordia General Hospital. I did not need my grade 12 or the GED program at that time. Therefore, the Luxton Adult Learning Program was not a concern to me....
Life hardships and experiences played the role of hindering my success at obtaining employment at the Health Sciences Centre....
The environment is at a children's school, and the instructors are mature adults like myself and other students. Every student comes into the program for their own private reasons, which are kept confidential....Every student learns at their own pace of learning....It is a secure, safe environment and offers a professional environment to learn. Most every student feels the same way.
This person accessed the adult literacy program at a school in my riding. As a result of that, she was able to go on and get a job, secure employment, and gain the confidence to participate in all kinds of ways offered by our society, which had been denied to her up until that point.
Many others have expressed the same thing. Here is one from April:
I am in this program for my reading, writing, spelling and math. I am doing good on all of it but I hope to get better on all of it. If this program was not here I would feel bad because I need the help I am getting in this program.I need the program to help me on all the things I need help on.
Let me read a couple more:
My name is Elsie and I am nineteen years old and I'm writing this letter to you because I want you to know what it means to me to come back to school. When I was a young teenager in high school I had a hard time. I didn't have many friends and a lot of people there were so mean to me they would tease me and bully me around all the time. It got to me to the point that I just dropped out. I thought that it would be ok for me not to have the education that I should have had when I was younger, but one day I tried to get a job and I was told that I didn't have the education that was required for that job. So that's when it hit me that I needed education. If it wasn't for the program Literacy, upgrading, and the funding from the government, then I don't know what I would do. It means a lot for people like me to be able to come back to school and be able to get the education that we need. I feel a lot better knowing that I can get the education that I need. I feel like a new person and that I would be able to get a good job and have a stable home for my family.
I could go on. There are hundreds of those letters, all written personally. They are all real stories of real people who are being hurt by the government's cutbacks.
If there is anything I could do today at this time of dealing with budget matters it would be to try to persuade the Conservative government to go back and look at what its cuts to literacy programs actually meant and did. If there was administrative stuff that could be cut out of the program, so be it. The member for Burlington does not seem to get that what the government did was not just cut extras and things that were not about direct services; it cut into the very heart and soul of programs that helped people help themselves.
Another good example is in the area of women's funding and women's programming. The Conservatives said that they are cutting away any extra administrative costs, that they are taking the money that was going into administration and putting it in the hands of people, into the hands of women.
In reality, that is a good cover for a cutback that is directed at an important group in our society who should be fully participating and cannot because of systemic discrimination and a whole variety of factors. They are not people who want a handout from the government. They want to access these programs that help them to become full participants in our society. That is what is wrong with the cutbacks in the Status of Women file.
It is ridiculous for the minister, as she did yesterday when the huge demonstrations took place, to suggest that she is not hurting women. She is hurting women. The government is hurting women's groups that are providing services to help women deal with some very difficult situations.
I think about my own riding of Winnipeg North. The North End Women's Centre has done so many projects to help women who are at the very bottom and are almost giving up completely. The centre helps them get on their feet and start again. One of those projects is Money & Women, to help women get ID so that they can access a credit union or a bank. It helps women figure out how they can avoid being ripped off by payday lenders. That is an important service.
Why does the government continue to cut back the heart and soul of this country in terms of our values of caring and compassion?
I want to touch on an issue that was part of this budget and it is the money that was gleaned out of the system by the NDP when the Liberals were in power in their minority year. It is money that was approved by Parliament for education, housing and the environment.
While we have been going through this debate, the Conservatives have taken great delight in all this money they are expending in these areas, without mentioning that the money that has been put in those areas is the money that happened as a result of NDP pressure during the Liberal minority government.
The only new money in this budget for education and housing is a result of the bit of money we were able to win from Parliament as a result of the minority situation. We expected that money to not only flow, which the Conservatives allowed to happen, but we also expected that there would have been something in addition, that the Conservatives would want to build on those initiatives which actually help people access important programs that make a difference, whether it be education services or affordable housing.
Let us be clear that what we need to do is not simply take credit for other people's hard work. I do not care who gets the credit for this, but the Conservatives should not simply sit back, say they have put money into trust funds and now they can rest on their laurels and not do anything. The fact of the matter is there are many communities that are desperately in need of some support, particularly in the area of housing. It makes no sense to anyone why the government would simply take that money, put it in a trust fund, wash its hands of it and say it is over.
I can reference a local situation. Folks in the House will know about Gilbert Park, a housing project in northwest Winnipeg which was on the news very recently. A fire was started by young kids who tried to put a child with a disability into the burning building. It made the news. The community is working hard to overcome some very difficult situations, but it really needs a federal government that is willing to partner with it to renovate the houses people live in and build the kind of community that will prevent that kind of delinquency on the part of young people.
We are talking about a housing project where almost 50% of the population is under the age of 18. Can anyone imagine? This is a community that is living in almost abject poverty and half of the population is kids. There is no money for crime prevention programs, cultural programs or women's program because the government, like the government before it, believes that if it gives more tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy it will trickle down and somehow, somewhere Gilbert Park will reap the benefits. It does not work that way. It just does not happen. It defies all logic and has no basis in fact whatsoever.
We need a government that balances the need to be fiscally responsible by ensuring every year some money goes against the debt. That we support. We need a government that is willing to take some of the surplus dollars and put them into communities and programs that actually help people overcome problems, many of which are beyond their own individual responsibility and control.
That is the role of government in the final analysis. That is the essence of what we are here for. We are here to ensure that people are given the supports they need to help themselves. If we fail that, then we have misunderstood our responsibilities, we have denied Canadians their right to access a good parliamentary process, and we will have in fact only ensured that we are negligent in the final analysis.
It may be too late to stop this bill given the fact that the Bloc are supporting the Conservatives, but I would urge the government to look at real people, real issues and the reality of Canadians, and start to turn these situations around.