Mr. Speaker, we did bring them in. They were part of the fiscal framework and they helped make Canada. They were brought in. The Conservatives are going to have to cut them in the budget if they do anything about them. Do not worry, they are there. They are a problem for the Conservatives.
They are a good thing because they helped make Canada more productive and competitive. They deliver significant tax relief to Canadians, particularly lower income Canadians who need it the most. They are good economics, and no economist has disputed this. Indeed, the Canadian Tax Foundation has calculated that those cuts will benefit middle income Canadians approximately twice as much as the GST cut, twice as much for middle and lower income Canadians.
I heard the finance minister musing on television this morning that because of the full treasury which the government today inherited because of the prudence of the Liberal government, the Conservatives may revisit their position. Today in question period the minister was much more reticent, but I can tell him and the Prime Minister that we sincerely hope they do. We hope that at the time of the budget we will be able to congratulate the finance minister on his conversion on the road to Ottawa.
Let us now turn to the Conservative justice agenda.
The Conservatives do not seem to accept the link between the ease of obtaining and keeping handguns and violent crime rates and the use of reasonable controls on the use and possession of long guns. They also do not believe in the usefulness of the current process of regulating the possession of firearms. As a result, the government has committed to dismantling or otherwise nullifying the gun registry, a critical tool to control and monitor that supply.
It is regarded by chiefs of police and the rank and file who shared their concerns with the Prime Minister Monday as an important initiative against violent crime and a valued policing tool.
Having criticized the costs that were incurred in setting it up, why would the Prime Minister now throw those costs away, particularly as we await the Auditor General’s report on how improvements may be made. Why do it now? Let us wait for the Auditor General's report. It should give us an indication of how to go about it.
Why not work to find ways that the registry can be improved? We will support you. But we will vigorously resist its dismantling.
We also expect the government to be transparent in its plans with regard to the gun registry. The Government has suggested in the past they will use regulatory means to get around Parliament to gut the gun registry, recognizing that they lack the votes in the House to repeal the legislation. This would have the effect of changing the very purpose of the registry. The Liberal opposition will resist any attempt by the government along these lines.
The government has also indicated in its Speech from the Throne that it intends to implement stricter criminal sentencing in the form of increased mandatory minimums.
All members of this Parliament want their communities to be more secure. Many voters in my own riding have told me so. All members of this House want something done in this regard. Therefore, we are in favour of measures that would increase the number of police officers in our communities. However, all amendments to our Criminal Code must be well thought out, balanced and must respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Prime Minister has put forward his accountability and ethics package in the throne speech. Of course we agree with elements of this package. We are all committed to finding ways to improve how we serve the Canadian people and earn their trust, but it must be said that all efforts by the government to persuade Canadians that its commitment to this issue might well be measured against its wilful disregard of its own rhetoric on this subject, not to mention its flouting of basic and long-established conventions on these matters.
This is a Prime Minister whose first act was to appoint his political organizer to the Senate while simultaneously informing Canadians that he will only appoint elected senators in the future. The newly appointed senator had already been made a cabinet minister, and not just any cabinet minister, but the Minister of Public Works, which is one of the most important portfolios in the government and the very department of government that is responsible for spending and overseeing billions of dollars of taxpayers' money each year.
What is our basic problem with this appointment? It is simple. This public works minister is not accountable to the House of Commons, Canada's elected chamber with the primary responsibility for the public purse. We find that unacceptable.
Colleagues, I am quite astonished as I look across the floor of the House and I look at the faces of so many colleagues who sat over here and spoke to us about accountability for so many days in the last Parliament that they would look there and be pleased about the fact. Think of it colleagues. You, the Conservative members of Parliament , will have the person responsible for overseeing $13 billion of spending per annum, billions of dollars, the most important spending portfolio in the government, sitting in the Senate. Are you not somewhat ill at ease with this? Do you really believe--