Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on debate today with regard to the fiscal update.
When the Liberal government came into power in 1993, we had inherited a debt of $42.5 billion. There was no question that this deficit of $42.5 billion was given to us by the previous Mulroney government. Under great fiscal management by the Liberals, we were able to eliminate the national deficit and pay down the national debt. The present government has inherited a very strong fiscal framework, all due to good Liberal management.
The one area that the Conservative government has failed on, and I am glad to see that the minister is here today, is the urban community agenda.
In 1983 the Federation of Canadian Municipalities proposed an infrastructure program to deal with decaying infrastructure in Canada. However, in 1984, the new Conservative government let it lay dormant for 10 years. I know something about this because I was president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities at one time.
There seems to be a pattern here. When we came into office, we brought in a national infrastructure program. We dealt with cities and provinces. We had a true partnership with them. We were moving the urban agenda forward, particularly the agenda dealing with infrastructure.
Regrettably, the Conservative government does not understand the urban agenda and it does not understand infrastructure. Comments have been made by ministers of the Crown, the Minister of Finance being one, suggesting that they are not in the pot hole business.
This is not about pot holes. This is about being competitive, both at home and abroad. It is about making sure that we have the right infrastructure to deal with it. I would have expected the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities to have been more sensitive to this issue given his previous life. However, maybe he has forgotten.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Miramichi and I know that he is sensitive to these particular issues.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities just commissioned a study which found that there is a $123 billion infrastructure deficit. The government's response is that this is basically not its problem. It was the Liberals who eliminated the GST on goods and services for municipal governments. At the time, we inherited a 57.4% rebate that came in when Mulroney was in power. In 1989 Mulroney quietly brought in this additional charge. We were able to eliminate it and the municipality of Richmond Hill saved $1 million a year.
The Liberals also came in with a new deal. This new deal was about dealing with this order of government, and that order of government being, of course, the municipal sector.
We know that on Monday mayors from across Canada will be coming here. They are going to make it very clear to the government that it will get an F. It could receive lower than that, but on the scale only an F is allowed. The Conservative government has not addressed the issue. The real sad part is that the Conservatives do not understand the issue, and that is rather disappointing.
We know that if we want to compete in the world, we need to have the kind of infrastructure that can move goods and services. We have to be able to deal with businesses and communities and universities and post-secondary institutions in general. The funding gap is there.
The Conservative government is a failure on the environment. However, it does like to recycle old Liberal programs. It likes to recycle moneys which we had set aside over the past while. We on this side of the House will never take any lectures from the Conservative government on municipal infrastructure or on how to deal with cities and communities because we were the leaders on that and we continue to be the leaders on that.
Our party has formed a cities and communities caucus because we have great bench strength when it comes to that issue. We understand those issues. There is absolutely no question--