Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in debate on this year's budget.
I am afraid it is another budget that fails to offer very much for Nova Scotians or for Atlantic Canadians in general, for my region, and it fails to offer very much to Canadians who might be concerned about the economy.
We are watching what is happening in the U.S. We see the lowest consumer confidence levels in many years. We see financial institutions not matching the lowering of the interest rates by the federal reserve bank in the U.S. Therefore, there is a tightening of credit with banks. Financial institutions are less willing to lend. Consumers are less able to get access to credit to buy homes or to buy cars. We can expect less spending on a variety of things. We should be concerned about that in Canada. The U.S. is our biggest customer, so to speak. It is our biggest market by far and the vast majority of our goods, our exports are sold to the United States.
Canadians are concerned about that, but they see so little in this budget that deals with it, largely because of the situation in which the actions of the past two years have left the government.
There is very little in the budget. It fails to offer very much for Canadians who are concerned about the environment and in so many other areas, as many other members have spoken of today.
The Halifax Chronicle Herald describes the 2008 budget as the most remarkable for the being the least memorable. It is a rather unremarkable budget in that regard. It has very little good news for our region. It is no wonder, given how much the government has squandered in the last two budgets.
At least this year's budget is a little better than the previous two, considering how bad they were. In 2006 the government destroyed the national child care program because it did not fit the right wing ideology of the Conservatives. It was the same thing in relation to the EnerGuide program, which they then resurrected under a new name, but it was a feeble imitation of it.
We see over and over again where the Conservatives do not like a program because it was started by the Liberal government. They may somehow recognize that there was validity to it and that it had benefits because they then come back with something similar, some shadow of that program afterwards, like they did with EnerGuide, as they have done now in relation to the millennium scholarship program. However, they are so ideologically driven that they cannot seem to accept that if it was done by a Liberal government, that it could be any good. That is entirely unreasonable.
In the 2007 budget things got much worse for Nova Scotia. I mentioned the 2006 budget, which was bad. The 2007 budget was considerably worse. In that budget, as Nova Scotians know, the Prime Minister betrayed Nova Scotians and he refused to honour his word to live up to the Atlantic accord, to fulfill the Atlantic accord. He killed it, as members well know.
Let us look at this year's budget, which I can only call lacklustre. Again we the anti-Atlantic bias of the government. Nova Scotia's Finance Minister Michael Baker, who is a Progressive Conservative, told reporters last week that he was relieved the federal budget did not appear to hurt the province the way last year's budget did. Imagine that coming from supposedly a fellow Conservative. Although in this case, as many Progressive Conservatives in Nova Scotia point out, they are Progressive Conservatives, not the same party as the government across the way.
We have heard from Danny Williams in Newfoundland. He makes the same point very clearly. He talks about the kinds of negative things the government has done for our country, for our social programs, et cetera.
Mr. Baker was relieved that this budget did not hurt the province as much as last year's did. However, he did note that it was not much help either. The budget is not doing very much to assist Nova Scotia, and he is concerned about that. Because of the situation the government has left itself in, he is concerned it is not doing very much to get the economy going at a time when we are likely to have possible slowdowns.
Many commentators pointed out, including the Halifax Chronicle Herald Steve Maher among others, that the regional development agency, ACOA, was not even mentioned in the budget. I suppose that is what we get when we have a part time minister for ACOA. The Prime Minister did not think that ACOA was important enough to have one minister whose attention would be focused on that job. I am sad to say that this says a lot about the Prime Minister and the government.
The news gets worse for ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, because there are also reports that ACOA will get less funding. The reports are based on the government's own spending estimates. The main estimates for 2008-09 show that ACOA's budget will be down 25% compared to the last Liberal budget.
Conservative spin doctors are already trying to explain away these cuts and to shift the blame away from themselves. If the government would invest as much in regional development as it does in its spin doctors and spin control, the region would be a lot better off.