Mr. Speaker, I rise here in the House today to speak to Bill C-28 to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament in March 2007. Some additions were also made in the economic statement of October 30, 2007. I will come back to that a little later, with some comments.
The main reason I rise here today is to have a closer look at the situation. It seems to me that my colleagues across the floor, the Conservatives, have really missed the boat when it comes to addressing the whole manufacturing and forestry crisis.
To this, we must also add the whole question of the employment insurance crisis. Upon reading the various elements of the government's budget contained in Bill C-28, one must wonder where the extra support is for workers.
For several months now—in fact, since the Conservatives came to power in Ottawa in January 2006—the reality has been that more and more jobs hare being lost every day, every week and every month. In the meantime, we have a Conservative government that is doing absolutely nothing to help our workers. What does this really mean? It means the families are not being supported.
These families are in crisis. The holidays are just weeks away. For several weeks now, plants have been closing one after the other. What does that mean? Lots and lots of lost jobs. Who is suffering as a result? Families. The children of these men and women who work so hard to ensure a better future for their children.
I remember how hard I fought to get the additional five weeks of employment insurance. I practically had to get down on my knees in front of the Conservative government to make it possible for our people to benefit from supplementary assistance during very hard times, especially people who work in seasonal industries.
Let us take a look at what has happened in the past few months. Conservative members have been saying that the country is doing well, that there are lots of new jobs, that everyone is working and that there is no economic crisis. I would invite them, as I have invited the Prime Minister, to come to my riding, Madawaska—Restigouche. They should not make it a little side trip that they can cancel at the last minute. They should come to Madawaska—Restigouche and meet the people who are losing their jobs week after week. Maybe then the Prime Minister and the Conservatives will understand what a dire situation this country is in. This is not a local phenomenon. This is not just a crisis happening in one region. This is happening across the country.
I would like to list some of the companies that are in crisis and that are cutting hundreds, if not thousands of jobs in the riding of Madawaska—Restigouche and across the country.
Here are some examples: WHK Woven Labels in Edmundston; Atlantic Yarns in Atholville; and AbitibiBowater, a pulp and paper mill in Dalhousie.
Today, a new disaster hit the manufacturing sector. Shermag in Edmundston and Saint-François de Madawaska announced it would be closing plants. This means lost jobs, and that is unacceptable.
How long have we been asking the Conservative government to take action? For a long, long time. Actually, we have been asking since they took power. We have been telling them to get ready and do something. Our workers must get help. Businesses must receive support in order to save our jobs.
However, cutting taxes is not necessarily the only way to support businesses. If a business is not paying taxes because it is experiencing financial difficulties, what good is a tax cut? It does not pay taxes. This does nothing for that business.
We must save what we have so that employees can continue to work today, tomorrow, a year from now or 10 years from now. Today, the Conservatives are showing that they would rather have a business shut down. They are saying that it is no big deal and keep telling Canadians that everything is fine.
The people in my riding of Madawaska—Restigouche have known for a while that things are not going well. As the Conservatives continue to tell people in my area that things are going well, I am looking forward to seeing what happens to them during the next federal election. The reality is that the government must help people everywhere.
It just so happens that an AbitibiBowater plant closed in Quebec as well, in Shawinigan. However, the Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is unable to find one red cent to help the plant, the workers, and the region of Dalhousie. It is absolutely despicable to act that way in such situations. In the meantime, other regions where the Conservatives are perhaps trying to buy something or other, or are at least hoping to win votes, are managing to get a bit of help. If they can receive help, why is the Conservative government simply not able to help everyone in the country?
Is it perhaps because we are talking about Atlantic Canada? Hon. members will recall the Prime Minister's comments about our defeatist attitude before he became Prime Minister. Is that why the Atlantic region is currently having problems? Is that why the Conservatives are giving absolutely nothing to help the Atlantic regions and their manufacturing and forestry industries? That is how we see it.
What is more, the country is bursting with surpluses, but it is unable to help people. The surplus was $11.6 billion for the first six months of the year. The public grasps the scope of that number. In the meantime, the Conservative government cannot give one red cent to help the manufacturing and forestry industries.
All of a sudden we hear ministers, including the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Finance, telling us not to worry, that help is on the way because the budget is coming. However, here is proof that this help will come too late. Bill C-28 that we are debating today is entitled An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2007 and to implement certain provisions of the economic statement tabled in Parliament on October 30, 2007. This is December; why is it that we are still dealing with matters the government has not resolved since the budget was brought down in March? Even if the next budget provides help, how long will it take before our regions, our businesses and our workers finally get the help they need? Six months, a year, two years, ten years?
This government is all talk and bluster. However, when the time comes to present concrete measures, where are they? Let the Conservatives take note that this is the proof. In December we are still discussing what the Conservatives proposed in the March budget. Our citizens need help now, not in 10 years.
This is exactly what we are going through right now. We have a Conservative government that does not want to take any kind of action, while people everywhere in my riding, in the various plants and mills that I mentioned, need help. And that does not even include all the job losses in all the other companies and those yet to come because of the Conservative's inaction. We can imagine all the other indirect jobs that will be lost. In fact, we are discussing direct jobs, more than 1,000 to date. This number can definitely be doubled when we take into account all the indirect jobs in the companies that provide services to these primary businesses.
How will we help workers in the future? For one thing, we must provide immediate assistance to workers and their families. We must ensure that existing buildings and equipment continue to be used—we call that hibernation. We need to find other solutions. The Conservatives will not do that. It will be up to us, the ordinary citizens, to find solutions while the government resists taking any kind of action.
In addition, we must ensure that the government provides assistance to communities. Look at Dalhousie, for example. Not just the city of Dalhousie, but all of Restigouche will suffer. Not just this area, but the entire Madawaska region will suffer because of the closing of the Shermag plants in Edmundston and Saint-François-de-Madawaska. We must be able to provide assistance to every community so they can get through the crisis. Had the Conservatives listened at the right time, we would not be at this point.