Mr. Speaker, one cannot have observed the government over the last three months without noting its flexible use of the English language.
The flexible use of language and the flexible marrying of words and actions remind me very much of the Lewis Carroll childhood favourite Through the Looking Glass. In this book, members may remember the quote:
“When I use a word, “Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all.”
It now appears that we have Humpty Dumpty in league with the government: words are being redefined, actions reinvented and the master will prevail.
The litany of reinventions prebudget are becoming folklore of contemporary politics.
The call for Senate reform in an elected Senate resulted in the appointment of a close crony. Is that true blue of democratic reform?
When the member for Newmarket—Aurora crossed the House we heard that it was scandalous. Now the crossing of the member for Vancouver Kingsway a few days after being re-elected is also cited as the true blue of democratic reform.
Mr. Speaker, I neglected to mention that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Davenport.
Calls for democratic reform and the openness of government, now followed by the appointment of the caucus chair and committee chairs.
No lobbying for five years after a role in government and yet we see a lobbyist made a privy councillor, a defence industry lobbyist made defence minister and an exodus of dozens of Conservative workers to the lobbying world.
We heard a defence minister tell media to stay off the property in Trenton out of respect for the families. We learned that the families had not been consulted and yet we have the spectacle of seeing the ceremony through a chain-link fence.
Transparency is given yet another meaning here. A civil servant and a novelist, a true renaissance person, in the Department of the Environment, the day of his book launch for a science fiction novel on global warming, is told by the minister's office not to attend the lunch honouring his book launch or to discuss his book with the media.
I repeat Lewis Carroll's question, “The question is...which is to be master -- that's all.”
The doublespeak and reinvention of language by Humpty Dumpty across the floor continues in the budget process as well.
From the outset, among the first words in the budget, we heard that our personal income tax rate will be reduced from 16% to 15.5% so that taxes will go down for every single income class. Not acknowledged was that the lowest tax bracket was indeed be raised from 15% , in effect from January 2005, to the 15.5%, which is estimated will reduce the average worker's weekly take home pay by $4.
Humpty Dumpty again, “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean -- nothing more nor less”.
We have heard much about the so-called day care program. We have heard that spaces will be created across the country. What we have not heard from our province of Manitoba, Mr. Speaker, is that 68 day care spaces in northern Manitoba, 700 day care spaces in rural Manitoba and 1,600 child care spaces in the city of Winnipeg, a plan that is currently in place, a plan that was based on reality, a plan that was based on training for child care workers, a plan that was based on capital construction and development and a plan that was based on reality, has been thrown out for a plan in development, modeled on a plan that failed dramatically when introduced in provinces.
Is the government really forthright, or is it really a question of making, as Alice said, “words mean so many different things”?
We have heard endlessly in the House of the child care plan of $1,200 per child until age six. Let us call it for what it is. It is a family allowance and not a child care plan. To call it otherwise is insulting to parents and to their children.
When this so-called plan was introduced, did the government tell us that it would cancel the child benefit that goes to the most needy families? Did it tell us of the inequities of the plan? Did it tell us that working poor and modest income families will end up with low net benefits and that one-earner couples would get more than single parents and two income couples?
We have heard much about choice but there is no choice. There is no choice for thousands of parents who want to go to school or enter the workplace. There is no choice if there is no quality child care available. In my own riding, waiting lists at child care facilities are so long that one young woman told me that they were not even returning her phone calls. Is this choice, or as Humpty Dumpty says, “--it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less”?
Now let us turn to the plight of our aboriginal population. Canadians know that the economic and social conditions of aboriginal citizens is desperate. Canadians, along with the leadership everywhere in the country, but for the government in the House, know that the Kelowna accord was the greatest opportunity and held the most hope for peace and prosperity for aboriginal Canadians across the country.
We have the spectacle of a once well motivated minister telling members of the House that aboriginal Canadians are, “real winners under this budget”. It is Humpty Dumpty again, “When I use a word...it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less” . Winners. What is a winner?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when a $5.1 billion integrated strategy is substituted for $450 million over two years for water supply, on reserve housing, education and general improvement of social conditions? We contrast that with a $5.1 billion commitment where aboriginal peoples would receive $1.8 billion for education, $1.6 billion for housing and water, $1.3 billion for health, $200 million for economic development and $170 million for governance. What does it mean?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when the money booked for them by the previous government is reallocated to allow Canadians to pay a penny less for a cup of coffee, or to allow well off Canadians a break for their cars, their boats and their holidays?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when an agreement in principle, negotiated by the previous government, where funds are booked by a previous government, are told that they are getting a settlement that was concluded by a previous government and the Conservatives were then on record of supporting it?
Are aboriginal Canadians winners when it is heard in the halls of this great building that, “Why should they get anything. They don't vote for us”. What cynicism and what lack of respect.
Are aboriginal peoples winners when the Prime Minister, Humpty Dumpty the master, appoints a chair of the aboriginal affairs committee who is known to have a stereotypical negative attitude toward aboriginal peoples?
Are aboriginal peoples winners when they are told during the election campaign that Kelowna was written on the back of a napkin and the current minister then says that he speaks for this matter and that he supports Kelowna and, as their supposed champion, he now jettisons it in the name of political expediency? One expects when a government stands up for Canada it stands up for all its citizens.
Are they winners when a holistic long term plan, developed in consultation and collaboration across the country, focused on regional and local priorities, is replaced with a few isolated initiatives, cherry-picked without consultation, all in the name of knowing what is best?
I will repeat, “The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master -- that's all”.
The budget was called “Building a Stronger Canada” but it is not a stronger Canada for aboriginal citizens. There is doublespeak through so much of the government's proposals; words chosen to mean what the government chooses it to mean, the spin.
With regard to the environment, we hear the government saying that it is advocating its made in Canada plan and that it will invest in a Canadian solution and Canadian technology. The one tonne challenge and the energy guide rebate for seniors, were these not made in Canada?
We need to hear about what is important for western Canada. The government is made up of westerners and yet we have heard nothing about the Wheat Board, western economic diversification, the clean up of Lake Winnipeg nor the Museum of Human Rights. We also have heard nothing about honouring labour market agreements, which, unfortunately, may be going down the tube.
It is important that the government stands up for all Canadians. I submit that Canadians want clarity and forthrightness. They do not want spin or a reinvention of words and concepts. They want to know that what is said is what the words mean. They want to know that the government will serve all Canadians fairly.