Mr. Speaker, I should have caught it. I apologize.
I will continue:
If nothing else, the [Prime Minister] should tell Ms. Asper privately to continue her efforts because Ottawa will support the project in the future, or he should tell her and the thousands of others who are working for its completion to take their money, their time and their talents somewhere else.
An issue of concern to all Canadians, not just Manitobans, is the plight of aboriginal people in Canada: shameful living conditions; no running water; housing atrocities; schools falling apart, forcing teachers to indeed teach out of their living rooms; and rates of aboriginal children in care that should be shameful to all Canadians, with more children in care than there ever were in the residential schools.
If the government really had wanted to solve some of the problems facing aboriginal Canadians, the opportunity was there. The blueprint, the Kelowna accord, was in its hands. It simply had to honour the committed funding. The money was ready to flow.
We know what the Conservatives did. They cancelled the money, they killed the accord and then they had the audacity to say that it did not exist, which was an insult to the hundreds of people and leaders who spent 18 months working on this accord and who came together to approve it.
To think, they did all this with a minister in charge who once said that “the fight against aboriginal poverty is the most pressing social issue that our country [currently] faces, and as Conservatives, we believe that something has to be done”.
They did do something. They set back relations between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians for decades. They created a climate of distrust. They dismantled all of the hard work and relationship building that had gone into the Kelowna accord while at the same time smugly declaring that they would put “wheels on Kelowna”. They have also abandoned the legal obligation of the duty to consult.
Let us look in depth at the budget commitments as they relate to aboriginal Canadians. There is $300 million over two years to encourage private home ownership on reserve. It is a re-announcement of an announcement made during last year's budget. In playing with figures, misrepresenting the realities of spending for aboriginal peoples across the country, legal responsibilities and administrative costs become program dollars.
There is $105 million over five years for job training for aboriginals. It is a start, but what the government is hoping is that we forget it cancelled the labour market partnership agreements in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. Had those agreements not been cancelled, they would have done the same thing for more people with a greater investment of funds.
Let me quote what the aboriginal leadership of this country is saying about the government and its treatment of aboriginal peoples from coast to coast to coast. National Chief Phil Fontaine said:
We don't see any reason to believe that the government cares about the shameful conditions of First Nations. We have tried dialogue and tabled a rational plan to address it.
Beverley Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada, called the Conservative government's approach to aboriginal issues “racist”.
John Ibbitson, columnist with the Globe and Mail, said:
The Conservatives lack the political courage to confront, head on, the overriding social policy challenge of our time: eliminating aboriginal poverty on and off reserve.
Manitoba MKO Grand Chief Sydney Garrioch said the Prime Minister's budget is widening the economic, educational and social gaps between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Canadians.
Mary Simon, from ITK, said:
There are no Inuit specific announcements...apart from the announcement of a program for restorative justice for Aboriginal People, the huge social and economic problems facing Inuit and aboriginal populations seem stuck in the too-hard-to-do category [of this government].
Canadians are angry about this treatment of aboriginal Canadians and I say to the Prime Minister, do not underestimate them. They see through smoke and mirrors and they see the truth.
This Conservative government governs for some of the people all of the time, but a government should aspire--and I repeat, aspire--to govern for all of the people all of the time. This government does not have the will to do it. I say to the Prime Minister, do not underestimate Canadians.