Madam Speaker, I wish to participate in debate. Initially I was planning to talk about the inadequacies of the budget in dealing with the needs of ordinary people across the country, particularly those most vulnerable and hurt by the recession. These speeches have been made before but they need to be underscored.
There is also the inability of many communities across the country, particularly in my province and others, to access the infrastructure funds because of the requirements of contributions from the municipality and the province. In fact, the president of the St. John's Board of Trade, in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador, said that it was like going onto a frozen pond, seeing someone who had fallen through the ice and offering to sell him a life jacket for $9, saying, “I will pay the additional $12 if you give me the $9”. It is a metaphor which shows how inadequate this is in dealing with the needs of our municipalities.
However, I cannot rise in the House to speak to the budget without talking about what has happened outside of the budget papers and budget documents, but is very much a part of this budget. It is the back door changes that were made to the equalization formula, which has the consequence of taking $1.6 billion from Newfoundland and Labrador.
This is a body blow to the fiscal situation of our province. It is $3,000 per capita for every man, woman and child in Newfoundland and Labrador, a significant amount of money. The comparison has been that for Ontario, it will be equivalent to $22 billion. For Quebec, it will be $14 billion. It is a significant, horrendous blow to the fiscal ability of Newfoundland and Labrador to carry on and manage its obligations.
This money was projected by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador based on the formulas that were existing. It is a complicated formula, as we all know, dealing with equalization and offsets, but it is part of what was due to Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of the Atlantic accord and the promise made by the Government of Canada.
I listened very carefully to the member for Kitchener Centre when he urged hon. members in the House to regard the budget as a Canadian budget, as a noble consensus of Canadians, and urging members to pass it. Is it a noble consensus of the country, of the House, of the government, to say to Newfoundland and Labrador that we will remove $1.5 billion in transfer payments to my province, unilaterally, without notice, without consultation, without discussion, and, in fact, without even spelling it out in the budget papers?
Yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, in response to my question, ignored the fact that $1.5 billion was taken away from Newfoundland and Labrador. He talked about what was left. What was left is very good, but if it is $1.5 billion less than what was promised and what would be delivered under the existing formula, then obviously he was not telling the whole truth, because the whole truth—