Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the budget bill. Pardon me if I smile a bit, Mr. Speaker, because this is a joke. That is all I can say. The bill itself is a joke. When we look at the budget that was tabled it is like everything that the government does. It is a great marketing strategy, fabulous retail. When we look at the window dressing, it is beautiful. It will sell anything. But when we look for the substantive part, it is not there.
Let us consider some of the words in the budget. Let us look at some of the phrases that were used. First and foremost we have to note regarding this budget, people have said that the current finance minister has been the highest spending finance minister in the history of this country.
The Conservative government inherited from the former Liberal government a strong economy, a strong balanced budget over nine years, huge investments that were made in innovation, in learning, in helping to move forward into a 21st century economy. None of that was followed through on. A lot of money was spent on little baubles that look pretty in the window, but which really have no long term impact, no vision and absolutely no ability to create a future for Canadians. In the 21st century, productivity, competitiveness and the ability to develop human capital are the key things we should be thinking about if we are to hold our heads above water.
Given that we are such a small country with only 32 million people, we have to be smart. We have to be the best and the brightest in terms of our workforce. We have to create a country which is going to be innovative, creative and technologically progressive. There are certain things we need to focus on because we cannot be everything to everyone. None of that was taken into consideration in this budget.
Instead we heard marketing slogans. The budget talked about an infrastructure advantage. That is very interesting because there was a reiteration of many Liberal programs, for instance, the gas tax rebate that went to cities for infrastructure. There was in fact a delay of the Pacific gateway which was a huge infrastructure advantage for Canada, for British Columbia and the west.
We know that if we are to be competitive we must diversify trade. Right now most of our eggs are in one basket, and that is the United States. Eighty per cent of our trade is done with that nation. Anyone, including my mother, and she is not an economist, could tell us because it is just common sense that we do not put all our eggs in one basket, that in a global economy we diversify.
Canada has an enormous advantage. We could go to Asia. We have the people. Multiculturalism has given us a whole generation of people who speak the language, who understand the culture and who understand the marketplace of most of Asia. We could have a distinct advantage there. Was anything done to win the race to get there first? No. In fact the gateway has been delayed by five years. As I said once before, by the time we get there, there will only be crumbs left to pick up off the floor. Canada is a trading nation, but absolutely nothing was done to create an advantage for us in terms of trade.
The Conservatives talked about modernizing the health care system. This was another wonderful little slogan that came about in the budget, modernizing the health care system. The biggest problems with our health care system right now are one, infrastructure, and two, wait times. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to know that one of the key factors in bringing down wait times is increasing the human resource potential of health care professionals. We are short of physicians. We are short of nurses. We are short of technologists and technicians in health care. We now know that there are almost three million Canadians who cannot find a family physician. There was not a single word in this budget about health human resources.
The Liberal government had already spent the first year building a policy to help create a strong health human resource pool. That has disappeared. There is no knowledge about where it went and there is certainly no word about it.
The language, the pretty thing in the window, says that the government is talking about modernizing the health care system. What is it modernizing it with? There is nothing substantive to do that, but still they are nice words.
Then we heard talk about a cleaner, healthier environment. That is wonderful. The first thing the government did was to renege on Kyoto. To show how much it cares about a healthier, cleaner environment, the government went to the CHOGM meeting in Uganda and refused to put its signature on a plan to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and to clean up the environment.
The Conservatives argued that they did not sign on to the plan because China was not involved in it. China is not a member of the Commonwealth. That is like saying we will not do anything in our own backyard to make a difference because the rest of the world has done nothing. It is like the cockeyed plan, which they signed with the United States. Now Congress has to look at that plan again to decide if there is a better plan to deal with the environment. Here we go again. The Conservative speak great words, nice words.
Now we know that no one else will go to the next environmental conference. Not a single member of the opposition will go because we are persona non grata with the Conservative government. Parliamentary democracy is taking a beating with the government. As opposition members, we never get to go. I do not care which party goes, but the opposition is an important part of parliamentary democracy. We should be there to ensure the government represents the best interests of Canadians. I guess if we are not there, then we cannot complain. It is kind of late for us to say anything now as it is after the fact: A cleaner, healthier environment, indeed.
Then we heard talk about entrepreneurial advantage. That was another wonderful statement in the budget. Do members know what gives us an entrepreneurial advantage? Investing in human capital will give us that. Anybody who has studied the economics of a post-industrial era will tell us that the most important of the three capitals that are spent on economic development is human capital. We have to educate people so Canadians can be the best and the brightest in the world.
We cannot compete with China in making cheaper T-shirts, but we can talk about how Canadian citizens can be the best and the brightest. Ireland did it. With only four million people, it is one of the most productive and competitive member states in the world and it became so by investing in people and in learning.
Instead, the Conservative government has cut adult literacy. Instead we find out that the fifty-fifty plan the federal Liberals had to help young people to get a post-secondary education is gone. The $3.5 billion skills and training agreement that the federal Liberal government made with the provinces disappeared. Instead, with all that money gone, $800 million has been invested in what?
How did we miss the boat on getting the best and the brightest, on giving every Canadian youngster a chance to go to school early? We have no child care, no early childhood development. That was also felt to be unnecessary. Getting our young people to be the best and the brightest, starting at their earliest years, has disappeared. Getting into post-secondary education has disappeared. Skills and training is gone. There is no word about adult retraining for people who have lost their jobs in the manufacturing sector. Yet we hear this wonderful term entrepreneurial advantage.
When I look at this budget, I have to smile. I have to stop myself from laughing out loud. There is absolutely nothing in the budget that would give Canada an advantage on the world stage. There is nothing to help Canada hold its head above water. There is nothing to help Canada become competitive and productive.
When the government answers questions in the House about jobs, it tells us there are all kinds of jobs out there. There are jobs and then there are jobs. With a $10 an hour “Mac” job, people cannot bring up a family. We are talking about real jobs, sustainable jobs. We are talking about the ability to invest in Canada and in Canadians. We are talking about moving toward a goal for a future for our country. We are talking about being the most competitive in the world on the global stage. There is nothing about that in the budget.
As I said before, I was pleased to stand and speak to the budget bill, but I can find very little in it that is worth mentioning or worth applauding or that has a vision for our country.