Mr. Speaker, now we see that it took a budget document for the Conservatives to finally acknowledge the legacy that they inherited from the Liberal government. If members do not believe me they should listen to the quote from the budget speech on page 15. It states:
--Canadians have reached a level of accomplishment few other countries can rival.... Canadian workers and business people have shown the world what talent and hard work can do.
Unemployment is at a 30 year low. We have low inflation, strong consumer confidence and corporate profits are at record levels.
It says exactly the same thing in French:
Les réalisations des Canadiens font l'envie de nombreux pays.
— les travailleurs et les gens d'affaires du Canada ont montré au monde ce que peuvent apporter le talent et le travail acharné.
— les Canadiens ont plusieurs raisons d'avoir confiance. Le chômage est à son plus bas niveau en 30 ans, notre inflation est faible, les consommateurs sont très confiants et les bénéfices des entreprises battent des records.
Clearly this happy outcome is a result of focused, strategic investment in our economy and in our people by the past Liberal government. On examining the budget, Canadians of course are right to ask, “What does the Conservative plan for the future do to enhance those strategies or improve on the conditions they so heartily applaud in their budget document?”
Not much. The Conservatives' focus on five simplistic priorities is designed to beguile and to deceive, but not for the purpose of national interest. Hence, for them, an increase in the personal tax rate for low and middle income Canadians, from 15% to 15.5%, becomes, are we ready for it, a reduction. So much for accountability.
Let me quote again from page 16 of that same budget document:
--accountability means...the numbers must be presented clearly. It means we have to be frank about where we stand financially.
And the French says:
[Cela] signifie que les chiffres doivent être présentés clairement. [L'imputabilité] signifie que notre situation financière doit être présentée avec franchise.
However, they are not frank in this document.
Yet, awash with cash as a result of Liberal economic management, they choose not to invest but, as my colleague said, to dismantle. They begin with distortion. That is the first step to dishonesty.
So a reduction in investment in post-secondary education from $2.5 billion, under the Liberal plan, to $200 million in this budget plan is touted as something progressive. For those out there who are looking for investment in the future, $200 million is touted as progressive.
How can we build for the future without investing in the creation of a skills and intelligence infrastructure? In an era when 70% of all net new jobs being created will require more than a high school diploma, the Conservatives are oblivious, first, to the need to invest in new, innovative and hence productivity-enhancing technologies, second, to the need to expand on the commercialization of those innovations, and third, to the fact that the early school leaving rate will create a class of permanently underemployed and vulnerably employed Canadians.
If we want to become productive and competitive in the world economy, we must invest in skills development and graduate research and become a nation that can export its talent, innovation and technology, a nation that can attract foreign investment because we have the labour force and the talent to guarantee a good return on that investment.
Instead, the Conservative plan tinkers with tactics and abandons overall strategic investment. Deception, that is the order of the day, whether it is with older workers, immigration, the environment or infrastructure.
With older workers, for example, the government plans to use them to make, and I quote the budget document once again,“Canada more competitive in the global market”. But how? It promises to “undertake a feasibility study of measures to help such workers, including the possibility of income assistance and retraining”. Can members believe this?
The government will undertake a feasibility study of measures to help such workers, including the possibility of income assistance and retraining.
It is absolutely laughable, as is the claim that the Conservatives will increase immigration settlement funding by $307 million. In fact, the Liberals had already negotiated with provinces and started to roll out a $1.3 billion amount to invest in the settlement, integration and retention of new Canadians to meet the labour market and demographic needs of the country.
However, with classic bait and switch tactics, with which the Conservatives are familiar, the budget talks about a country “built by people seeking a better life for themselves and their families”. It offers the velvet glove of a reduction in the right of landing fee, to $490, for those who actually get to make it here, but delivers the iron fist of deportation and removal through the Canada Border Services Agency, going so far as to have officers forcibly remove children from classrooms in front of their friends.
It is a classic Conservative approach to demographic challenge and immigration: send them back and keep them out. This ”to heck with you” approach permeates the entire budget document. Gone is the $5 billion investment in environmental strategies and climate change. Hello, $400 million for local programs, still, according to the budget document, “being developed by the Minister...”.
What have the Conservatives been doing for four months? No, I am sorry, what have they been doing for 12 years? They have been aping or copying our strategies. Envious that Liberals could think big, could plan macro, they focus on acting small. They attack us for our infrastructure program, but note that their plans will:
--maintain the...current funding under existing infrastructure initiatives...the existing gas tax funding commitment under the New Deal for Cities and Communities, and the full GST rebate and the federal portion of the HST paid by municipalities.
As well, I might add, they will pass off the highway border infrastructure fund, the municipal rural infrastructure fund, the cities strategic fund, the transit capital trust fund, and the Pacific gateway initiative as new--note that word “new”, although we had already put them in place and funded them--and as theirs. Can hon. members imagine this? After spending two years vilifying Liberals, with all Canadians watching, the Conservatives have now decided to offer Liberals the highest form of flattery. It is called imitation. That is what the budget document, through these programs, tries to do: imitate Liberal initiatives.
Regrettably, now that they have discovered that our government was replete with action, performance and achievement--let us see if we can get this right in German--the Conservatives' approach is now tentative and is identified by, “Let us hurry up and wait”. Except for the increase in personal income tax rates, disguised as a cut, which will come into effect with the passage of the budget, Canadians will have to wait until 2008, no, 2009, no, further, to 2010, to taste tax reductions in small business taxes or corporate taxes.
We might ask why. Surely if we believe in a competitive Canadian business sector, the time to make it so would be to cut taxes when the economy's performance, thanks to Liberal management, is producing unimagined surpluses. Liberals cut $100 billion in taxes when times were tougher, so why the timidity of these tax cut proponents in boom times? The answer is--