Mr. Speaker, I guess I am not allowed to do that even when I am reading. I will refrain.
Sadly, the government does not get it or does not care. Maybe the government thinks the rest of the world owes Canada a living. Or maybe the Prime Minister does not understand the need to invest in an uncertain future when times are relatively good. Or maybe he simply does not care because such investments require a time horizon extending beyond the next election.
This budget also does not contain a long-term plan to protect the environment. It decreases our financial commitment to the clean and sustainable production of renewable energy by reducing it from 5,500 to 4,000 megawatts.
Tax breaks for new tar sands development projects are maintained until 2015.
Improving the water quality of our lakes and rivers is slowed down.
Assistance to compensate citizens for energy retrofits is replaced by mere tokens that bring the cost of reducing our consumption to thousands of dollars per tonne.
Funding for our provincial partners is cut in half.
And to top it off, the budget does not contain a single measure to force polluters to pay when they discharge pollutants into the atmosphere. In the absence of a comprehensive plan, the incentives for cleaner automobiles do not go very far.
We already knew that our Prime Minister is about the only economist on the planet who believes that cutting the GST is more beneficial than reducing income taxes.
Is he also the only economist who does not recognize the need to put a price on carbon so that polluters will no longer be able to consider the atmosphere as a public dump they can use for free?
We will have the answer to this question when the government finally unveils its plan to fight global warming. But given the Prime Minister's record—he denies climate change and has made draconian cuts to environmental protection programs—until the polls lead him to think about it, I would not advise the House to expect much from this plan.
Budgets are not usually high on humour, but yesterday there was at least one humorous moment leading me to nominate the finance minister for the 2007 naivety award. Two days ago the finance minister declared, “We are going to resolve once and for all this continuing problem we have had, this bickering between governments in Canada about fiscal imbalance”. Only yesterday he said, “The long, tiring, unproductive era of bickering between the provincial and federal governments is over”. Well, not quite.
This new golden age of perfect harmony and bliss in federal-provincial relations lasted about one hour after the budget, at which time a red-faced angry finance minister was seen on national television in bitter debate with Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland and Labrador. Said Mr. Williams in one of his milder passages, “Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are feeling an intense sense of betrayal here by this government”.
Saskatchewan's premier called the budget a betrayal of the Conservatives' promise.
Not that betrayals of promises are anything new to the government. Think income trusts. Think capital gains tax reductions. Think health care waiting times guarantees. And now there is another one: think Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Within minutes or hours of the budget speech three other provincial governments, British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, made comments that can charitably be described as unflattering.
So much for the finance minister's much vaunted era of peace. If this were another age, the finance minister's peace messenger would likely have returned to finance headquarters strapped to his horse and riddled with bullets.
More seriously, does not this near instant evaporation of harmony in the face of the government's restoration of so-called fiscal balance reflect the failure of the policy? Balance connotes peace and stability; balance as opposed to imbalance; peaceful, stable. But a fiscal balance instead brings anger and unhappiness. Maybe what was achieved yesterday was something other than balance, or maybe the concept itself is without meaning.
The finance minister hopes that his failure to keep his election promise that no province would be made worse off could be masked by embellishing his increases in other transfers to the provinces. He took $250 million from the billions of child care money he decided not to give to the provinces and called it an increase in the Canada social transfer. He cancelled the $3.5 billion that was intended to go the provinces for labour market partnership agreements last year but brought back $3 billion to the exact same program and called it a solution to the so-called fiscal imbalance.
He has extended the gas tax money for Canadian cities, a measure that the Canadian Alliance originally opposed when the Liberals made it law, and claimed it was $2 billion in new money for the provinces. He did similar things with other programs including those aimed at clean air and climate change. All told, over half of the $39 billion claim is nothing new, and this from a government that promised a more open and transparent budget process.
Let us look at spending. I am pleased that after seeing this budget we can all expect that Conservative members of this House will stop griping about the spending habits of the previous Liberal government. Andrew Coyne, again not traditionally a great friend of Liberals, said in the National Post that with this budget, the member from Whitby “officially becomes the biggest spending finance minister in the history of Canada”. He went on to say that the Conservatives have now raised spending by $25 billion in two years.
This is made worse because it is yet another broken election promise. The Prime Minister promised to limit the rate of the federal government's growth to population growth plus inflation. That is about 3%, or approximately $5.5 billion per year, not $25 billion over two years.
To conclude, this is a budget without merit, a budget which the Liberal Party is proud to oppose. Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That”, and substituting the following therefor:
this House condemns the government for a budget that does so little with so much, failing to look beyond the next election to the next generation and failing to tackle Canada's 21st century social, economic and environmental challenges by ignoring the difficult circumstances of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens; by paying only lip-service to Aboriginal peoples; by providing no broad-based income tax relief for ordinary middle-income Canadians, and particularly by not reversing the personal income tax increases imposed in last year's budget; by not pursuing greater Canadian economic competitiveness and innovation; by offering no direct support to post-secondary undergraduate students and only a pitiful amount for early learning and child care; by ignoring the imperatives of a clean and sustainable environment, including the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, advancing no significant new measures to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental priorities in a coherent manner; and by resorting to misleading presentations of budget figures, including gross exaggerations of increased federal transfers to provinces and other orders of government.