—even though there are none here, and I know I cannot comment on that. However, in the absence of Liberals in the House, I hope they are listening out in the lobby. They know they are sending a terrible message to Canadians. It does not matter what they stand for, it does not matter what they believe in, if they believe in anything, because their principles go out the window the first chance political expediency matters, the first chance they have an option to stand up for something they believe or worry about their backsides and their political future.
This is a time, especially around a budget, where we have to stand for something. We have been through this.
I was a cabinet minister and then an MLA in Manitoba. It was at a time when there was lots of turbulence when we were suddenly defeated in March of 1988 on a budget vote. We stood for something and did not back off our position, even though we knew the opposition Conservatives were gunning for an election. We did it even though we knew we had a loose cannon in our midst, who was edging for a cabinet position and did not want to support an NDP government unless he got his way. We also knew that when it came to being an opposition party in a minority parliament in Manitoba, and we were not in any position to fight an election, we had to choose if we would support a Conservative government, with regret and with qualifications, or would we run and hide.
We did not run and hide. That is the worst thing we can do in politics and the last thing that should be done in terms of Canadian life today. It tells Canadians that everything that is near and dear to our democratic system does not matter because principles can go out the window at a whim.
What the Liberals are doing is a great disservice to democracy in our country. We are not talking, as the member for Kitchener Centre has said, about grey areas of certain issues. We are talking about good versus bad, right versus wrong, evil versus heavenly good, whatever we want to say. We are talking about diametrically opposing ideas and we have to choose. We are faced with a Conservative government today that is absolutely squandering of our fiscal capacity in a way that will hurt the majority of Canadians, not for a short term but for many years to come. The government is killing our future because it is not investing a penny to save our health care system. It is not doing a thing for education or housing.
On housing, when the budget came down, we asked if there was anything in the budget for it. It turns out there are $110 million for five pilot projects in centres across the country. That is it. It is designated for mental health issues. That is good, but it is a tiny piece of the puzzle when it comes to a huge problem in terms of housing and the problems facing people with mental illnesses.
The government just this week cut back funding for the Kali Shiva AIDS Services in Winnipeg. Why? Because it is an organization devoted to helping the homeless and other people who are in danger of harming others.
In Winnipeg we are trying to stop people from harming others and to help people to help themselves. What does the government do? It cuts back funding for the Kali Shiva AIDS Services because it is doing too much work on harm reduction. Can members believe that?
This follows the fact that the government will not invest in aboriginal housing. We just had a huge, devastating fire in Pukatawagan where three children died because of the terrible housing conditions on that reserve.
If the member for Kitchener Centre were still in the room, she would know that not too long ago hearings were held in her riding around pharmacare and access to drugs. She will know that adults in her city are crying because they have lost their jobs due to the cuts to the manufacturing sector. They have been left without any drug coverage.
This is not grey matter. This is not shades of wrong. This is wrong. This is evil. This is bad public policy. The Liberal Party should stand up and fight it just as we are, without regard for our political necks and our political future. We have to put our principles on the line.
When it comes to the whole immigration issue, people have to understand why we are so worried. We are worried because we have a government that says it will deal with a backlog to allow more economic immigrants in the country. In fact, the Conservatives have turned back people who have already been approved because they are needed to fill skills shortages and to meet the economic needs of our country. Why? Because they do not like something about the family. In the case to which I am referring, it is because a child in the family has a disability.
Is this the real intention of the government when it comes to changing the immigration policy? Is it in fact an ideological move on the part of Conservatives to shape the face of our country to exclude certain groups of people that they do not find acceptable, that they treat as second class citizens? What kind of message are we sending to people in our country, people who are living with disabilities? Are we are saying that they are not welcome if they have a disability, or that they are second class, that they do not matter and that they might as well be dead. When have we heard that before? That is what is so troubling about the government's agenda.
If the Conservatives were serious about opening our doors to people who have skills to bring then they would in fact ensure they would not turn their back on people who are approved under provincial nominee programs, as they have been in Manitoba. They would not turn those families back because their child has a disability. They would not turn them back because they come from the wrong part of the world. They would not turn them back because they have the energy and the fortitude to contribute something to our country. Then we would have a government willing to deal with the backlog that the Liberals created in a reasoned way. The problems we are dealing with now go back to a decade of Liberal neglect on a very important file.
About six years ago we dealt with major changes to the immigration bill. I was the NDP critic at the time. It was a flawed bill. As a result, we have flawed legislation before us today. We tried to amend it. The Liberals resisted every attempt to improve the bill. We presented, on our side alone, over 100 amendments to try to ensure that the economic class was improved so people could get here under a point system. We tried to document the backlog under Liberals and the waiting time of seven years or more for family sponsorships.
We tried to say that the government and this nation had no business denying people because they had a disability. We tried to suggest that there had to be due process and a refugee appeal process that made sense in this day and age. The Liberals refused each and every one of those amendments. Now, in fact, the Conservatives are doing exactly what they have every right to do, which is to take that legislation and apply it as the Liberals had intended.
We had a chance then and now we have another chance today to actually deal with this problem. The only way to seriously deal with this is for the House to support the NDP amendment to move this out of the budget bill. Let us make sure that we have, as the Liberals want, good debate and discussion at the committee around future immigration policy. Let us get on with the job at hand and reject the budget because it is bad news for Canada and for future generations.