Mr. Speaker, I want to continue on the theme of lack of accountability and a transparency with regard to the government, particularly on this issue.
We talked about the need to be cooperative in Confederation and the need to work collaboratively. There will be times when people will not agree on issues but I find it surprising that a finance minister from the province of Ontario would stand up repeatedly and basically say that people should not invest in the province of Ontario, the economic engine of Canada, when we have problems in the auto, manufacturing and forestry sectors.
There is no question that the minister may be fighting old battles. Maybe he wants to be leader of the Conservative Party in the province of Ontario but the job is currently occupied. I would suggest that going after the province and suggesting how it should run its budget and how it should address the priorities, and governing is all about priorities, is really not the concern of the federal government.
The federal government needs to get its own house in order. As we know, the government has spent like a drunken sailor over the last two years to the point, according to the ministry of finance, that it is at 0.7% of going back into a deficit, something which this side of the House and this party got this country out of when we inherited a $42.5 billion deficit in 1993. We became the only G-7 country to pay down the national debt and the only G-7 country not to have a deficit.
When we look at the expenses of the government we see that spending has gone up 14.8%, which was highlighted by no less than the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. Government spending has gone up a record high. The reality is that we talked about and took action on corporate taxes as a government. We dropped them significantly from about 28% down to 19% and then the current government subsequently dropped them another half percent.
The reality is that it is about investment as well. Under the Minister of Finance, when he was the minister in the province of Ontario under the Harris government, they left a $5.6 billion deficit. Yes, it cut taxes but, unfortunately, it closed about 29 hospitals and fired 8,000 nurses and infrastructure problems became the norm.
We know about the 25% cut to the ministry of the environment. What led to Walkerton? Those kinds of things left Ontario in a sad state and, as we know, when an independent audit came in under the new McGuinty government, it discovered that the books were not as reported and it had a $5.6 billion deficit.
Why are the hon. members from Ontario not standing up for Ontario on that side of the House? Why are they not standing and saying that we need to invest in the auto and manufacturing sectors and that we need to be proactive in ensuring that people in Ontario who are losing their jobs are assisted in areas of retraining? We had a member of the government go to Queen's Park when the budget was announced denouncing the government, again not working in collaboration with them but denouncing them. It was sort of a big brother approach which, I am sure, is quite interesting given the fact that the Conservatives came into power suggesting that they would have a new era of cooperation with the provinces and territories.
The Conservatives have done nothing to help the manufacturing and forestry sectors. We are talking about people who are losing their jobs and who need retraining. They have even denounced the issue of retraining in the province of Ontario. We need to be investing. When they attack the Ontario government, regardless of political stripe, they are not doing any favours for the people who live in that province, not stepping up to the plate and asking how we can work collaboratively.
Members will remember that when the Harris-Eves government was in power there were six out of eight deficit budgets totalling $28.4 billion. Those people claimed to be the fiscal managers and yet the same group that is now in charge is leading us down the same road, again, 0.7% away from a deficit. When it comes to fiscal management we do not need to take any lessons from that side of the House.
We are the ones, with the help of Canadians, who put the country back on the right track. We see the kind of situation today when the government is heartless and unwilling to help those most in need, which is a major concern to people in my constituency.
Not long after the Premier of Ontario came into office he said:
After eight years of Tory government, the bottom line is: our schools are worse off, our health care is worse off, our environment is worse off and we face a Tory deficit of $5.6 billion.
It's a devastating record, given that these have been years of often spectacular economic growth. Clearly, it was time for a change, and we are working hard to deliver that change.
That is clearly an indictment. We believe on this side of the House about a balanced approach in terms of dealing with personal taxes, corporate taxes but also to invest. I spoke earlier about the Federation of Canadian Municipalities identifying the $123 billion deficit with regard to infrastructure across Canada. The response of the government has been a pittance. It recycles money instead of saying that we need to ensure that Canada takes the lead when it comes to innovation. When it comes to investment opportunities, this is the place to invest and, obviously, not just in Ontario but across the country.
However, when we see this kind of negative approach by the Minister of Finance and by government members, it is not surprising that people look elsewhere in terms of investment opportunities.
What is the strategy? Why would a minister of finance from the province of Ontario attack his own province, regardless of political stripe? Either it is old battles or the Minister of Finance does not understand his own province, which would be quite an indictment not to understand its importance. He comes from an area of Ontario where issues of transit are absolutely critical, where moving people, goods and services are absolutely imperative and yet he has a very callous approach. I talked earlier about the pothole comment, not understanding that all orders of government, including municipal, need to work effectively together and yet we do not see that support at all.
We see a rail link from Peterborough to Toronto for 900 individuals, which is very nice, except when it comes to investing in the greater Toronto area and the extension of the Yonge Street subway up to Richmond Hill, which was one of the things the Prime Minister with the premier and others announced in June of last year, we see no money and no action on that. There is a need to move people in a growing area like York region but we have seen no action. Where are the Ontario members when it comes to those kinds of issues? They are silent.
On the issue of the environment, the government has dragged its feet on the coal plants and has delayed assisting and reducing those for over a year. We hear nothing but the blame game from the Conservatives who have been the government for two years. They need to take action in dealing with environmental issues and greenhouse gas issues. If they do not believe in the science and the fact that the environment and climate change is a reality, I guess this is what we get. We see that they did not believe that because some of the same players, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of the Environment, were in charge when we saw the cutbacks of 25% to the provincial ministry of the environment at the time they were part of the Harris government.
In the area of manufacturing, we have lost 100,000 jobs since January 2006, jobs that are very hard to recoup, but the government has made no approach to respond to that. We have 20,000 jobs lost since February 2008 alone. These are devastating numbers. These are a real concern to us on this side of the House. We have enunciated an action plan to deal with those kinds of issues on infrastructure and on job creation, but nothing from the other side.
It is a very great concern given the fact of the high dollar. We see a drop of 3.4% or $48.6 billion as of December last year in lost trade opportunities. These are concerns to us on this side of the House.
How are we going to address that? The government has put forth a series of budgets where it has spent and spent but has not addressed the key issues that Canadians are looking for and has had no impact in terms of addressing some of these critical issues.
We on this side of the House do not believe in deficit financing. We are the party that dealt with the $42.5 billion deficit and eliminated it. We do not believe that the approach of the government is a sound one fiscally because it is moving increasingly toward a deficit.
The government took away, for example, the $3 billion contingency fund, which was a fund that was absolutely critical. When we had the SARS situation and the mad cow situation we had a cushion. The $3 billion was there to protect not only the people of Ontario but people right across the country. That was very prudent on behalf of the government of the day. That elimination is of great concern to those of us on this side of the House and it shows the lack of understanding of what is needed to deal with these kinds of situations that occur.
We are very much of the mind that these things must be addressed and they obviously have not been addressed in the budget.
What is the government's strategy now in terms of dealing with the layoffs in the auto sector? What is its strategy in dealing with the forestry industry? We know it left $1 billion on the table with the Americans on the forestry agreement.
The government used to talk about health care but it has not done anything about it in terms of wait times. Some of those ministers were in the Harris government when 29 hospitals in Ontario were closed and 8,000 nurses were fired. Those are not things that we would consider to be progressive. They would not be considered to be thinking ahead in terms of an older population and what we need to be doing. It is not addressing those issues for the people of Ontario. If in fact the government were to take this same approach in Quebec I am sure there would be an absolute revolution.
At least the members from Quebec on that side of the House have been much more articulate when it comes to some of these issues. Where are the Ontario members? Why are they not standing up and saying that these issues need to be addressed?