Mr. Speaker, here we are, just one week short of three months since this bill was introduced and we are still debating it, notwithstanding the efforts to pull a sneaky motion on Friday and then the government House leader introducing closure earlier today.
I am wondering why it took the government so long. It possibly has something to do with the lack of popularity of this budget.
It used to be the rule of thumb that if people were still talking about the budget 48 hours after its delivery, then the budget was a failure. By that standard, this budget is a colossal failure.
I only have to point everyone to today's headlines. One states that the Prime Minister “faces growing Atlantic Tory backlash”. It says, “Nova Scotia premier leads charge against federal budget and 'our quiet talks are about to get a whole lot louder'”. The article states: “It is clear the Finance Minister is 'determined to undermine these efforts and undermine our good faith discussions', the Premier said in a telephone interview”.
The next headline states that “Mulroney phoned” the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley “in bid for Tory unity”. That article states that the “Nova Scotia MP [for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley] said Mr. Mulroney called him twice in the days before a second-reading budget vote to see if any accommodation could be reached between the veteran MP and [the] Prime Minister”.
I can pretty well understand why the government does not want this debate to go on for too long. When we have headlines like that, it is not a good day for government, and certainly this is well past the 48 hour cut-off period to determine whether in fact this is or is not a good budget.
What must be very disappointing for the Prime Minister is that this was to be the central piece of his one step-two step lead-up to the election. His first step was to get the premier of Quebec elected and the second step was to have what we could call a goodies budget.
The first step was a bit of a disaster. The premier of Quebec almost lost his seat. The net result was Quebec's first minority government certainly in decades and possibly into the previous century. We have now cumulatively the majority of members who are either full-out separatists or quasi-separatists who are called autonomous, whatever autonomous means. That step one did not exactly come off the way the Prime Minister planned it.
Step two was a goodies budget, so to speak. Instead of being a goodies budget, it has turned out to be a victims budget. The budget has many victims. In fact, I recommend that in the event the government ever gets to deliver another budget it should precede the budget with a victims bill of rights, because when we start counting up the victims this budget has incurred, it gets to be quite extraordinary.
The fundamental rule of budget making is to not make the lives of Canadians worse by delivering a budget. The idea is to actually make their lives better. It is not as if the finance minister did not start out with hordes of cash. He has just declared a $13 billion surplus. He is somewhat reluctant to give credit where credit is due. He appears to prefer to blame the previous 13 years of government mismanagement, but when there is $13 billion in the kitty that is of course all his doing.
Then the finance minister proceeded to victimize literally millions of Canadians and all kinds of people and groups. He started with the premiers. The premier of Newfoundland and Labrador was first out of the box. He was quite eloquent in his declaration that this budget in fact was a fraud on the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Next up was the premier of Saskatchewan, who said the promise that was made during the election was that non-renewable resources would not be touched. Now we have the premier of Nova Scotia saying that the quiet discussions “are about to get a whole lot louder”. This is not exactly the way to create a peace in our times budget.
All three premiers have in common a simple understanding that a deal is a deal is a deal. When the Atlantic accords, as they have come to be known, were entered into, that was a deal. It was not a deal that could be changed unilaterally by one side of the partnership. It was simply a deal.
It reminds me of a real estate agent who sells someone a house and two years later says he really did not intend to sell that house but he has a better one to sell. Maybe, just maybe, the premiers and the people of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Saskatchewan think the house they have is perfectly fine, thanks very much, and they do not want the alleged benefit the finance minister is holding out to them.
Indeed, there was an extraordinary event when the premier of Saskatchewan accepted the invitation of the finance committee to appear before it and talk about the budget. It was not a particularly good day for Conservative MPs at the finance committee, particularly those from Saskatchewan, who were in the uncomfortable position of having the premier of their province deconstruct the budget in a fairly precise way. They were left in an unenviable position. In fact, he quoted chapter and verse from the Conservative platform and how the government of Saskatchewan would be affected.
The three premiers plus all of the people of the provinces they represent is one rather large group of victims.
There is another group of victims and those are the income trust folks. Some have said that up to two million people were victimized by the decision of the finance minister and the Prime Minister to reverse their election promise. Not only did they reverse their election promise, but they executed it in such an incompetent fashion that they literally wiped out multiple billions of dollars of hard-earned savings.
I have an email from one of those victims. I do not know this man, but he sends it to me from Ladysmith, B.C. I will withhold his name because it is a bit of an embarrassment to him. He wrote: “Dear John: Thank you for so succinctly stating my situation around the income trust fiasco yesterday in the House of Commons. I personally lost in excess of $100,000 in investments of close to $400,000. More importantly, I have lost it. I can't recoup it now even if the Minister of Finance backed off completely”.
He continues: “I deregistered what was left of my self-directed RRSP and incurred a whopping $36,000 in income tax”.
It gets worse. He goes on: “Part of my investments had been leveraged with a mortgage on my principal residence. In order to service that debt we need to sell our home and relocate in a much more modest home”.
So much for their retirement. I am sure they will be terribly interested in income splitting.
His final paragraph states, “It isn't worth much, I know, to hear a thank you from me, but it's all I can offer you at this time, that and the promise that I and my family will be voting Liberal in the next election”.
That is not exactly the way to win friends and influence people, but it is just so typical of the literally thousands if not millions of people who have been victimized by the decision of the finance minister.
Students have also been loaded on. In my riding last year we received something in the order of $340,000. That $340,000 was spread over 121 students. They were at the West Hill Community Services centre. They were at the University of Toronto, the Scarborough College branch. They were at the East Scarborough Boys & Girls Club. It was not a huge amount of money in the case of each and every one of those people, but it is a terrific resumé builder and a terrific experience for these guys.
We tried to find out what was happening. I sent an email to my staff. I received an email saying that the short answer is that “we'll never know”, that they called so-and-so, who was not answering his phone, and they wanted someone named Vince to explain it to me. The government cannot and will not give us a list. I guess it is easier to shift money around if it is kept a secret. The open and transparent new government sure works in mysterious ways.
Then, of course, we have the interest deductibility decision, with a whole collection of victims.
Mr. Speaker, I see you indicating to me that my time is up, which is really quite a shame because there is such an endless list of victims from one end of the country to another. It really is an unfortunate occurrence that I cannot tell the House about all of these victims.