Mr. Speaker, today we have an opportunity to discuss Bill C-28, which has three important parts: the implementation of last spring's budget, the economic statement issued a few weeks ago, which is commonly referred to as the mini-budget, and the Atlantic accord.
For the members of the New Democratic Party, it is also an opportunity to take stock of the differences between the various parties here in the House of Commons.
If there is one observation we can make in light of the most recent budget statement, it is that the Conservative Party, which is now in power, simply does not believe in the role of government in the economy. That is a purely ideological stance, and it prevents the Conservatives from seeing that, in an economy as diversified as Canada's, the government absolutely must be aware that it has to rebalance things when they get out of balance.
What caused the current economic imbalance? The overheated oil economy in western Canada, which affected the value of our dollar. In turn, the rise in the value of the Canadian dollar led to higher export prices, naturally. What sector has been affected? The manufacturing and farming sectors have been particularly hard hit, as the member for Charlottetown just said. It would be a bit easier to believe the Liberals' hand-wringing over these sectors if they had had the courage to vote against the government's budget. Still, we believe the member was talking in good faith when he said he wanted to do something for farmers.
The third sector that is feeling the effects of the rising Canadian dollar is forestry. Mill and plant closures in Quebec and the rest of Canada are the direct result of our loonie, our Canadian dollar, increasing in value by over 50% over the past five years. Despite extraordinary gains in productivity, plants that have been around for ages have been closing one after the other in Quebec, particularly in regions such as Montmagny and Beauce. Around Sherbrooke, we were all very sad when Baronet, a high quality furniture maker that has been around for over 60 years, closed its doors. It is one thing to say that a factory has closed its doors—that is kind of cold and unemotional. It is another thing to watch very skilled workers lose their pride and their ability to support their families.
How does the Minister of Finance respond when we tell him about these things? He stands up and says that according to them, they are cutting taxes for businesses, which is good news for productivity. Our poor unfortunate Minister of Finance does not seem to understand a thing even though, apparently, he is an educated man. It is hard to believe that he can be so completely unaware of how ridiculous his position is. He needs to understand that if a company, such as a sawmill on the lower North Shore in Quebec or a furniture factory in Beauce, did not make a profit last year, it cannot benefit one iota from a so-called tax cut because it did not pay any taxes last year.
Now for a rhetorical question: which companies did rake in huge profits last year? Oil companies in western Canada. Who will get the lion's share of these tax cuts? Oil companies. Who else recorded huge profits? The banks, which cleared $18 billion.
Let us examine what is going on in these two sectors so that we can better understand our Conservative government's priorities—or lack thereof.
It is primarily the Liberals who are to blame with the oil sector, since they did nothing for 10 years, although they were supposed to reduce greenhouse gases. They had the largest increase in greenhouse gases out of all the Kyoto signatories. It is a disgrace. The Liberals are responsible for this.
Now that the Conservatives are in power, what have they done? They have made it worse. They are busy denouncing the Kyoto protocol. They have no intention of respecting it. They have no regard for future generations. Their political base is in oil sands country, which is responsible for producing massive amounts of greenhouse gases. They have no intention of finding a solution to the problem.
Furthermore, they are giving bonuses for environmental misconduct in the form of tax cuts, without the slightest effort being made—in terms of sustainable development—to internalize the cost of adding these greenhouse gases to our atmosphere.
Now let us look at our Minister of Finance's absolutely classic bad track record with banks. Many people have their paycheques deposited automatically at the bank. It is not even their choice. Why should a worker whose pay is automatically deposited have to give a tip to the bank president to have access to his own money? Our tireless Minister of Finance, cap in hand, visited the bank presidents last year and was told to get lost. He got nothing at all, but that is no big deal. At least he made an effort.
Then, at Halloween, he decided to give the banks a little present. He gave them more tax cuts and benefits, with the result that the banks, which are already raking in huge profits and do nothing to reduce ATM fees, will get even more money. There is absolutely no vision.
Let us take a look at what is happening in the manufacturing sector, in Ontario and in Quebec, in the industrial heartland built up after the second world war, part of a balanced economy. Yes, we do have a lot of natural resources, yes, we need a manufacturing sector; yes, we need a resource sector like the one out west; and yes, we need a service sector. However, we are sacrificing our manufacturing sector on the altar of dogma, of far right ideology, which states that governments play no role in the economy. This is the narrow-minded vision that has taken hold of Canada.
Next week, Mark Carney will appear before a parliamentary committee. He will eventually take over for David Dodge who, unfortunately, remains in his position as somewhat of a lame duck. In fact, his successor was announced more than one month ago, and since then the value of the loonie has swung wildly, as never before.
Some companies have benefited a great deal, particularly companies such as Goldman Sachs, Mark Carney's previous employer. We can hardly wait until next week to ask Mr. Carney some questions about his work at Goldman Sachs because many economies in the world today are guided by former Goldman Sachs employees. It will be interesting to hear the vision of Mark Carney, the man who sold the public's share in Petro-Canada. Is that the best way to go about things? He was the one who pointed out the tax leakage arising from income trusts. I will quickly add right away that we never supported income trusts, but unlike the Conservatives, we would never have lied.
The outcome of all this is quite interesting. Certain companies that paid taxes in Canada now no longer pay any because they are registered elsewhere in the world. Is that the vision that Mark Carney will present to the Conservative government if he becomes the Governor of the Bank of Canada for seven years? These are some of the very interesting questions that Mr. Carney will be asked next week by a parliamentary committee.
It is because of the New Democratic Party that Mr. Carney will appear before a parliamentary committee. I suggested it to my colleagues and they unanimously passed a resolution to that effect.
This discussion around Bill C-28 is an appropriate opportunity to look at, analyze, and compare the different philosophies that exist in this House.
Just as in the matter of greenhouse gas production, Canadians now realize that they have a choice amongst a government that refuses to act, a Liberal official opposition that never did anything when it could act, and the Bloc Québécois that will never be in a position to do anything because it cannot act. The only real option right now on these issues is the New Democratic Party of Canada. We are the ones who are leading the charge on these important issues, such as greenhouse gas production.
When we look at the differences between our different parties, there is nothing clearer than the fact that for ideological and dogmatic reasons, the Conservatives are completely destroying the manufacturing sector of our economy. They are sacrificing it on the altar of their dogma and their ideology. They simply do not believe that governments can play a role in the economy. They have this idealism that somehow there is a pristine free market that works out the best solutions.
We have, geographically speaking, the second largest country in the world populated by fewer than 35 million people. We have, especially since the second world war, built a modern, solid and balanced economy.
Our country's beginnings were in the resource sector and it remains an important part of our economy. But we have also built hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure in manufacturing that is now being ruined by the Conservatives' inability to comprehend that the government can and should be acting on behalf of those sectors that are suffering from the sudden flight of our loonie.
What has been driving that increase in the value of the Canadian dollar? A very strong petroleum sector in the west that, of course, is producing greenhouse gases that the government refuses to understand is driving global warming. But that sector is also warming up the Canadian economy and destabilizing what was a relatively balanced economy.
As the Canadian dollar increases of course, it becomes more and more difficult for manufacturing and forestry firms to export their products because, the Canadian dollar being worth more, those exports cost more for people in other countries to buy. So it has been having a serious effect on them.
Instead of intervening in those sectors of the economy and trying to help maintain a balanced economy in Canada, the Conservative government announces with great fanfare, in the documents that are before us, that it is providing across the board tax decreases for all businesses.
What does that mean for a manufacturing company that made no profit last year? It means absolutely nothing because that company paid no taxes. What does it mean for a forestry firm that is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and made no profit last year? It means absolutely nothing because that company did not pay any taxes.
Who is getting the lion's share of these supposed tax decreases? Lo and behold, it is the energy sector out west because it is making huge profits. It is also the banks that are making huge profits. Anybody who looks at these things understands that a solid banking structure is indeed the backbone of a sound economy. But is it necessary to have strong banks in Canada to gouge the little guy? What about someone whose paycheque is deposited directly in a bank? Why should that person have to give a $3 tip to the bank president to have access to his own money?
Our Minister of Finance went cap in hand last year to the banks and was sent packing. He received nothing except their contempt. He came back here to the House and said he had at least tried. He does not seem to understand that he is the Minister of Finance and the banks answer to him, not the other way around. But then again he is a Conservative so he cannot understand that. He thinks that all these structures are the boss and he is the underling.
We in the NDP understand that the government can and should play a constructive role in helping manage a modern economy like Canada's economy. We know that if in Europe people had the same approach as the Conservatives, they would never have something like the train à grande vitesse that now criss-crosses Europe at 300 kilometres an hour. It took vision. It took government involvement. It took the best brains. It took long term planning, something the Conservatives simply do not understand because they do not believe in it. They do not think that governments can play that sort of proactive role. That is why they are always coming up short on Kyoto. They are always embarrassing us internationally on climate change.
Canada once had a proud reputation around the world as being an environmental leader. After 12 years of inaction by the Liberals, and now the embarrassment of the Conservatives, we have lost a lot of that credibility. We can hardly look anyone in the eye internationally any more on these environmental issues, and it is a tragedy.
It is the same thing for the profound changes that we have undergone in Canada's role as a peacekeeper. We were once a proud country, with a role that goes back 60 years. The rest of the world has looked us and said that we are the country they can count on to help build peace when the time comes. If we look at what John de Chastelain did to build peace in Northern Ireland, we will see the archetype of what Canada can do when it works at its best.
What is the worst example? Our current involvement in a combat mission in southern Afghanistan, which has nothing to do with us, nothing to do with our traditional role in the world as a peacekeeper and a peace builder.
That is the Tory record. That is the tragedy of the current Tory government.
However, there is one saving grace in all of this. The Conservatives have decided to move forward and make it increasingly clear that is their agenda, that is who they are. As we say in French, “Le chat sort du sac”. It is becoming increasingly clear, and more and more Canadians are seeing the Conservatives in their true face.
They are great emulators of the George W. Bush White House. They are more comfortable with American foreign policy. They are like the current American administration, tragically, blissfully unaware of the right of future generations to have us think about the effect on them of the decisions we take today. That is the essence of sustainable development. It is the obligation of every government in every action that it takes to weigh and to consider the effect on future generations.
I love it when I see senior members of the Conservative government, including the Prime Minister, pose with young people, the future generation, during campaign ads. It would really be nice to see them actually do something for those future generations instead of just posing with them during their campaign ads. One of the favourite things is to pose with kids skating. Pretty soon there will be no outdoor skating left in southern Canada for one good and simple reason. There will not be enough winter.
Some people might not lament the fact that our temperatures are starting to rise. However, we have to realize that it will have a profound effect not only on our future, but on the future of the planet. This is why it is such a tragedy to listen to the bumbling facile answers of our Minister of the Environment as he continues to embarrass us and goes off to Bali to spout the same animismes that come out of his mouth every day here in the House of Commons.
On our side, the New Democratic Party firmly believes the government can and should play an active role in maintaining a stable and balanced economy. We should look out for the interests of average Canadians in their daily lives. Modern families require a government that understands its obligations toward future generations and it obligations toward them on issues like day care, housing and overtaxation.
We understand the average family needs a break from government, but what we also believe firmly is governments have to play a role in the modern economy. That is something the Conservatives have completely let down. That is why the forestry, the agriculture and the manufacturing sectors are in such a dire crisis right now, and the fault for that rests squarely on the shoulders of the Conservatives. They are going to be judged very severely for it in the next general election.