Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-52, the budget implementation act. My time today will give me an opportunity to address some of the points I did not have time to cover in my response to the budget.
Again, my main objection to this budget is that it accomplishes so little with so much.
The Conservatives managed to spend more money in this budget than in any one that preceded it and yet they have managed to help truly no one. I compare this Conservative budget to taking an entire crate of oranges and squeezing only one glass of juice from it.
In order to help solve the many problems facing our country, the previous Liberal government had created a number of social and economic programs, including the Canada millennium scholarship foundation, the summer career placement program intended for students and not-profit groups, as well as the CANtex program for the textile industry. We recognized the needs and came up with solutions. In some cases, the solutions found did not solve all the problems, but constituted an improvement nonetheless. We, the Liberals, showed Canadians that the federal government supported them and implemented action plans.
What do Canadians see from this government?
They do not see new programs. They do not see new initiatives. They do not see a government standing beside them.
They see a government that is obsessed with cutting programs and that uses smoke and mirrors to fool people into a sense of trust and confidence by spending more money than any other previous government in Canadian history.
Canadians can see that the current government does not support them and is interested only in slashing programs.
This is not a claim that the Conservative government's budget does not include any positive news. Nevertheless, the few good measures included in this budget are not enough to properly address the needs of this country.
I can use many examples to illustrate my point, but I will begin with perhaps the Conservatives' biggest failure: child care.
The Liberal government had signed deals with every province in the country to create new child care spaces. The Conservatives had no right to cancel these agreements. No new child care spaces have been created since their time in office, and paying a monthly allowance of $100 to parents for each child under six does not make Canadians forget about their broken promise.
Child care advocates and experts have stated that if the government is identifying child care as one of its priorities and then turning around and giving money to the provinces, it is an admission of the failure of their original so-called child care plan. One advocate even said the Conservatives have conceded that the former government had the right plan and it is following in those footsteps, with the huge exception of having 80% less of the funds that were available.
In terms of social policy, the previous Liberal government had an overall plan for Canada when it concluded child care agreements with the provinces. While respecting provincial jurisdictions, the agreements were modelled after the Quebec child care system.
The Liberals had a vision for Canada that took into account the needs of the modern family and also took into account a vision for the country that looked decades down the road. The Conservative answer is cheap vote buying that might look good in the short term but guarantees nothing for our future.
The poor platform in this budget does not stop at child care. The Conservative government has been abandoning Canadian businesses, especially the small and medium sized businesses that are the job creators in this country. The government expects that with a few piecemeal announcements Canadians will not see the effect of the numerous slashed federal programs.
I have received countless letters from business owners and their employees about the negative effect the government's actions will have on their businesses and jobs. One of these actions was the cancellation of the visitors rebate program. As vice-chair of the finance committee, I heard from various industry stakeholders about the terrible impact this cancellation will have on their industry.
The government did not give a satisfactory answer as to why this program was cut. As a result, the finance minister admitted his mistake by establishing a federal foreign convention and tour incentive program, but this solves only a small part of the problem the government created, as it does not address any tourism initiatives for individuals visiting the country. American tourism is on the decline in this country and the Conservative government seems intent on doing nothing to change that.
The budget also shows serious deficiencies when it comes to adult literacy. The Department of Finance announced funding for literacy programs, but this gesture appears somewhat hypocritical after the drastic cuts made to adult literacy programs last fall. The Conservatives must know that giving with one hand while taking away with the other is a hypocritical and deceitful way to govern.
One of the most dishonest showcases of the government is that of the environment. The announcements contained in the budget and those being debated today are positive ones, but some of these are simply a reintroduction of the previous, proven Liberal environmental programs.
Canadians do not believe the government's sudden about-face on environmental issues and Canadians still do not trust the Conservatives on this issue. This distrust is with good reason. In the recent budget, the Conservatives cut back Canada's commitment to renewable energy to 4,000 megawatts from 5,500 megawatts of support for clean and sustainable production.
The budget also keeps tax breaks for new oil sands expansion in place until 2015 to help with their plan for explosive growth. It slows our planned cleanup of lakes and waterways. It replaces rewards for those who make energy savings changes with gimmicks that cost thousands of dollars for every tonne reduced. It reduces funding to our provincial partners by half. There is no plan to make sure polluters pay for using the atmosphere as a free garbage dump.
It is obvious that the government has no plan for the environment. The public cannot be fooled into thinking that a few announcements or a rebate on a dozen cars constitute a vision for Canada's environment and for combating climate change.
In my presentation today, one focus has been on how the budget has failed Canada's business community, which helps Canadians by providing jobs, goods and services. During the budget debate, I spoke about how just the fact that the government refuses to lower the income tax rate to the Liberals' rate of 15% is reason enough that I cannot support the budget, in that it does not treat all Canadians fairly.
I have already discussed the failure of the Conservatives on the tourism front, but I would like to pay attention to some specific initiatives that were being promoted by business groups during the finance committee prebudget consultations and have been ignored by the government.
Canada is not keeping up the pace as it should be in the global economy. Not many people dispute the fact that one of the most important challenges before us as a country is lagging productivity, but the budget has the country standing still on this issue.
Other countries are moving forward. The changes for accelerated capital cost allowances are definitely a good measure, but it is not enough for industries, especially those in the manufacturing sector that have previously invested in capital and equipment either last year or even this year prior to the budget. They get no help.
The problem is also there with regard to industries that do not require capital investment but rely heavily on human resource investment. These industries also need help to keep Canada at the forefront of global competition and they have been shown nothing in the budget.
Money has been invested in universities to ensure that tomorrow's workforce is on the cutting edge, but the paltry sum allocated to the Canada foundation for innovation is barely enough to ensure its survival.
Although there are investments for Canada's 4,000 post-graduates, how about the hundreds of thousands of undergraduates who are being left out in the cold?
Although the changes to the sustainable technology development fund will help bridge the financing gap between ideas and commercialization, there is much work to be done to make our tax rates internationally competitive as well as expand access to Canadian goods in overseas markets.
The Liberal government had solid plans and programs in place to deal with the challenges facing our industries.
In 2005 we put forward the CAN-Trade strategy, which provided $485 million over five years to help Canadian businesses succeed in emerging markets. The Conservatives scrapped this initiative and have now replaced it with $60 million over the next two years.
The Conservative budget also cuts $970 million from the indirect costs of research program, which provides support to Canada's universities.
These are only a few examples of this government's catastrophic lack of vision. Some of the measures announced in the budget and debated here today constitute a few steps in the right direction but those steps are too little and too late.