Mr. Speaker, I am happy this afternoon to have a few minutes to speak once again and very directly to the budget implementation bill which is now before the House.
I had an opportunity last week not to enter the debate on the bill but rather on several occasions to ask questions of hon. members on both sides of the House about their comments and about the positioning of their party on the bill. To state the obvious, the government members made it clear from the outset, of course, that they would be supporting their own bill.
What was very much more surprising was that the Liberals, who have stood up here day after day trashing the decisions made by the Conservatives in the bill which is now before us, indicated nevertheless that they would be sitting in their seats rather than voting against the bill.
Perhaps even more surprising, if one pays close attention to the interventions from the official opposition, the Liberal members of the House, they have praised the government. We just heard the same thing from the last speaker, the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.
He praised the government for the extent, the depth and the breadth of the corporate tax cuts, while also trashing the government for the expenditures that it did not make on a whole wide range of desperately needed, overdue investments in the Canadian people, in Canadian infrastructure, and in broad social supports that deepening poverty has left people desperately requiring.
Middle class families are losing ground and being punished by the prosperity gap. They were also hoping would their issues be addressed in the budget, but clearly were not. It is a really difficult thing. It is kind of like whiplash. We get whiplash trying to keep up with where the Liberals really stand on the budget.
Let me say very clearly once again, and the point has been made very ably by a number of my colleagues, starting with my leader, the finance critic and also a number of other colleagues, that we will not be supporting this budget implementation bill for several reasons.
I do not want to be parochial about it, but let me say once again clearly for the record that one of the reasons that the members from Atlantic Canada will not be supporting it, but also the rest of my colleagues from all over the country, is because it completely betrays the Atlantic accord that was entered into through an all-party agreement starting in Nova Scotia, but also finally here in the House. It betrays the commitments made.
I want to say very briefly that it became extremely clear when I received in my mailbox in Nova Scotia a communication from the premier of Nova Scotia, which was not especially directed to me but went to every household in Nova Scotia, in which in the very first paragraph the premier of Nova Scotia stated categorically:
The Atlantic Accord is alive and well. The clarification which we and the federal government agreed upon on October 10th makes us better off financially than we were when we signed the Accord in 2005.
So far so good. That is absolutely true. The accord in its present form, desperately shaved down and shrunken, would make Nova Scotia better off than before the accord existed. However, it does not tell the truth that it does not make Nova Scotia better off to the extent that was absolutely promised in the signed and sealed legal document that constituted the first Atlantic accord, and that effectively was shrunken down by this budget implementation bill. Second, it states absolutely erroneously:
It is also a fact Nova Scotia stands to receive hundreds of millions of dollars more than when the value of the Crown share is determined in March 2008.
Again, in a special box highlighted on the first page of this communication, the premier of Nova Scotia says:
A three person panel will resolve a 20 year dispute over the value of offshore resources by mid-March. We are confident Nova Scotians will receive hundreds of millions of dollars from our Crown share.
The Minister of Finance has made it clear that is not true. The political and financial advisors of the government, in a briefing, made it clear that is not true, that in fact the only thing that may happen, and let us give the benefit of the doubt that it will happen, in mid-March 2008 would be an attempt to come to an agreement over what process would be used to subsequently resolve this 20-year dispute.
Not that the dispute would be resolved, not that the dollar amounts would be determined and made known to Nova Scotians, but that there would simply be an agreement on a process that would be used which could go on for a very long time.
I want to finish off dealing with the Atlantic accord because it is clear that there is every reason for it now to receive the new name: the Atlantic discord. There are tremendous contradictions between the provincial and the federal governments over what this newest iteration of the Atlantic accord actually means.
When there are constant differences in the interpretation of an agreement reached between two levels of government, this is a very big problem. This indicates that not only is there not certainty, there is not even any kind of agreement about what the accord actually means, let alone the likelihood that what is being promised in this implementation act would actually be delivered.
That reason alone accounts for huge numbers of Atlantic Canadians, particularly in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, absolutely making it clear they do not want this supported and they are having a hard time understanding why Liberals are sitting in their seats instead of voting against it if in fact they care about the economic health of the Atlantic Canadian provinces.
It does not just benefit Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, although they are the chief beneficiaries because it is about the revenues from offshore resources, but it clearly, if it were fair and it were actually delivering in this implementation bill what it promised to deliver, it would benefit the economy of the whole Atlantic region.
I must say, yet again, that I was stunned to hear the member for Scarborough—Guildwood congratulate the Conservatives for continuing the massive tax cuts to the corporate sector that are contained in this budget and, again, I guess we would expect him therefore to stand and vote for the budget.
However, that member knows and all of his colleagues know that it was the Liberal leader who gave a clear signal that the Liberal Party would be completely supportive of deeper and faster tax cuts, that were already contemplated by the Conservatives, that we see the massive deep tax cuts to the corporate sector.
Let us be clear who the single biggest beneficiaries are. Two major beneficiaries of these very deep tax cuts are: the oil and gas companies that are continuing to gouge consumers at the pumps, and the banks that are continuing to gouge consumers in terms of service fees.
What is that costing Canadians? I know my time is up, Mr. Speaker. It is costing in terms of this government not delivering on the long-promised and desperately needed universal child care program, not delivering on the affordable housing desperately needed, not delivering on reducing post-secondary education tuition fees for students who need an education in this knowledge-based economy, not delivering on the infrastructure programs that municipal leaders had to come to the Hill to plead for today because of what it means in terms of the deterioration of sewer and water, bridges, and not delivering on many other very important municipal infrastructure programs.
For all of those reasons, let me make clear what my colleagues have already indicated. We will not be voting for this very flawed, shortsighted and meanspirited budget implementation bill when it comes up for a vote.