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House of Commons Hansard #4 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Conservative Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments by the colleague across the way. I have worked with him in the past on the industry committee and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I know he worked very hard, as did the former vice-chair of the committee, on a manufacturing report.

When we talked to manufacturers in 2007 they said that if we could change the rate at which we write off their capital equipment, that would be incredibly important for a five year period. We presented that report in February 2007 and it was in the March 2007 budget for a two year period. It was then extended in 2008. In this budget we do get the full five years.

The member opposite should stand up, along with other colleagues, and say that this is something he contributed to doing and, in my view, therefore support the budget as a way of saying that he has had some impact on the fiscal policy of Canada, something that has helped manufacturers across this country and certainly in his own riding of Windsor West.

I would like the member to stand and address this issue and, frankly, take some credit for that policy being changed and for the government implementing that on this side of the House.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I agree with the member for Edmonton—Leduc, that work was very valuable. However, it is unfortunate that the other 20-plus recommendations were never acted on. The important difference is that we asked for a five-year complete window, which is important for the cycle of investment. We heard from the investors that they needed a five-year cycle. What we got instead was two years and now a revival of perhaps another three years, but that does not guarantee the full cycle.

If the government really wanted to help, it would have done the full five-year cycle so that it could plan out the medium and long term investments. Now the cycle will end again and the proper strategy is not there. It is a benefit, without a doubt, and a step forward, but it is not what was asked.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, it is ironic and very helpful to have both the member for Edmonton—Leduc and the member for Windsor West who has just spoken. We all look to that member when it comes to issues on automotive and understanding the very early trends we saw two years ago when the industry was having difficulty, particularly the plight of those in Windsor today who rank among the highest in unemployment. It is not a very pleasant situation. I understand the member's concern.

I wonder if the member could comment on two very brief things. First, the revelation this morning that in the budget nearly $8 billion in unspent funding had accumulated in the federal books. In other words, promises were made and programs were discussed but they were never actually delivered upon. I was wondering how that bodes for his community.

Is there actually a guarantee for any stimulus package that is provided? As a committee travelling through his riding, we were concerned that money that could be spent on a stimulus program, particularly in the automotive sector, may actually not get to suppliers and that the unintended consequence could be that jobs would be created in other parts of the world as opposed to our communities where they are badly needed, including Windsor.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and his work as well in committee. Apparently, he will not be on the industry committee this time and we will miss him.

With regard to the unspent money, it is tragic that we were not taking this money and acting. We had opportunities, which is why I highlighted GM. It procured a Korean-type technology for the battery system for its electric vehicles as well as the Volt itself. Even a company that is challenged right now is setting up a brand new environmentally friendly vehicle and we did not even compete for that. Here in Canada it took a lot of hard movement and pressure to get the federal government to even participate in a new engine development at Ford in Windsor. It is one of the good things that has happened.

At the same time, it showed the differences. General Motors will be investing billions of dollars in the United States accessing its new manufacturing $25 billion loan program. Meanwhile, we have not had a response to it. These are difficult things. If we do not talk to the U.S. about what it is doing, then we either need decide to get in the game or not. We need to be careful about how we do that but we do need to make that decision.

One of the things we are worried about is the ecoAuto rebate program where Canadian taxpayers' money went abroad to basically support other industries. The United States is looking to protect its industries right now, whereas we actually shovelled it out. Ironically, it kept the tax part on the vehicles. It added new taxes on top of those vehicles and a lot of that money comes from vehicles made in Canada. That is unacceptable.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

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—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I must take exception to the fact that the hon. member just said I was not telling the truth yesterday in answer to a question.

In fact, if the truth be known, budget 2009 does not change a word or a comma in the accord. I would like that on the record and I would like an apology from the hon. member for suggesting that what I said yesterday was not the truth.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I would ask the member for St. John's East if he would like to rectify any of his words.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I did not call him a liar. I just said he did not tell the whole truth, and the whole truth includes the fact that there was a deduction of $1.5 billion from what would be due to Newfoundland and Labrador under the existing fiscal arrangement. I would rely on your ruling on that matter, but I do not think that what I said was unparliamentary.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I believe that rectifies the matter and I would ask the hon. member to continue his intervention.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, the situation is very dramatic for Newfoundland and Labrador. I invite hon. members and the public of Canada to consider the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador, despite the fact that it is on the verge of have status and has reached have status depending on the price of oil, still has the highest per capita debt in all Canada. It has the highest unemployment rate in all Canada by provinces and has the lowest per capita income.

In Newfoundland and Labrador the net per capita debt, as of March 31, 2008, was in excess of some $21,000, $22,000 per person. The next nearest province is at about $14,000, and that is the province of Quebec. The all province average is $10,000, so Newfoundland and Labrador's per capita debt is more than twice the all province average.

With this budget, in one action behind the scenes, the government has not changed a word of the accord, but it has changed the formula for calculating payments to provinces under the offsets under the Atlantic accord by changing the equalization formula, and that results in a $3,000 per capita hit over the next three years for Newfoundland and Labrador.

That is shocking, it is outrageous and it is not a Canadian budget. It is not the Canadian way to say to the newest province in Canada that this is how it will be treated by the Government of Canada. It will give us this body blow, taking away the ability of the province to continue to do the kind of things that need to be done.

Over the last number of years, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has been reducing its per capita debt, thanks to the oil revenues and thanks to the 2005 Atlantic accord. Two billion dollars flowed to Newfoundland and Labrador under that accord. That was used to reduce the government's obligations, the unfunded pension liability, reducing the province's per capita debt by a significant amount, bringing it down.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have not had the kind of government measures they need. The provincial public servants had their wages frozen for two years and a very modest increase imposed on them after a strike several years ago. Nobody is flush with cash in Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of the transfer payments. The money is being used to try to reduce the provincial debt and to bring Newfoundland and Labrador services and incomes up to the national average, to fight poverty and to do the things that need to be done.

Here we have a government suggesting that the proper response in the budget, which is supposed to be stimulative and recognize that people are hurting and has the means to provide stimulus and get involved in the programs and infrastructure by being able to pay its share, is saying it will cut us off.

This is wrong and I ask all hon. members to recognize that. I ask the government to change this policy and to announce as soon as possible that this will not go forward.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for St. John's East for the efforts he devotes to his community. He talked about changes to the equalization formula and the negative consequences they are having on Newfoundland and Labrador. We have the same problem in Quebec. The changes that were made to the equalization formula without the provinces' consent, without any negotiation, were a slap in the face to Quebec, which will lose $1 billion in equalization payments this year.

Under these circumstances, does the member intend to vote in favour of the Bloc Québécois' subamendment, which calls on the government to reverse its decision to change the equalization program and, among other things, maintain it in its current form? Does he intend to support our subamendment?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, obviously we know that the changes in equalization announced last fall will affect a number of provinces, including the province of Quebec. It is not one that affects Newfoundland directly because this is a different problem and a different issue and has to do with specific changes to the way the formula is implemented.

However, to answer directly, yes, we share the concerns of Quebec and other provinces that are losing equalization payments as a result of the unilateral action of the Government of Canada in this matter, and we have indicated our support for the proposed subamendment. Therefore, the answer is yes. We understand that this affects five or six provinces, Quebec probably being the most seriously affected. We do not want to see this happen. We want to see provinces able to respond to the opportunities.

Whether we support the budget or not, if the infrastructure program is going to be in place, provinces have to be able to participate in it and equalization is one of the means they have at their disposal to provide support for municipalities to get some of these projects going.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the more disturbing elements of the budget is the lack of attention to employment insurance. Five weeks added on if one collects is a benefit, but it does not increase the eligibility.

I have a case in my riding where one gentleman worked for 20 years and paid into the employment insurance system. He never got it back in return, never had to use it and was happy to do so. He then changed professions and opened up his own business for the last couple of years. Then unfortunately his business collapsed like so many other small businesses in this time of need. He found another occupation, became a truck driver and worked for eight months.

Now he has been laid off. Because he is considered a new employee under the employment insurance system, he is not eligible for benefits despite being eligible when he left after paying into it for 20 years.

Does my hon. friend and colleague think these types of practices are unfair? I believe a worker, is a worker, is a worker. Whether one lives in Prince Edward Island, Ontario or British Columbia, one needs the support if one has paid into the system.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, the hon. member and I share the view there are many changes in the EI system that could have been part of the budget that would provide direct stimulus by putting cash in the hands of people who are unemployed and who would spend that money. This would be stimulative in effect but also beneficial to the individuals involved.

In my province of Newfoundland and Labrador the fishermen's union, for example, has been calling for significant changes to the EI system, recognizing there is a $54 billion surplus historically that has been collected from workers and employers for the purposes of EI but has not been spent for that purpose. There is a historical surplus that can be directed to increase the eligibility requirements.

We have a situation now where less than 40% of the people who are unemployed actually get access to the employment insurance benefits. The small change that has been made is certainly helpful to those who end up being on employment insurance for a long period of time, but it does not make one single person who was not eligible before eligible now, and that is a shame. This could have been remedied easily, yet the government has failed to do that.

It is a major defect in the budget. It ought to be rethought and the government should change its policy and do something for unemployed workers. This needs to be done.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

I do not know how many members of Parliament know how devastating it is to one day find out that they do not have a job, to wonder how to pay the heating bill or buy food for their families, to walk miles on the pavement looking for a job that does not exist, to think about having to move to a smaller home or low-rent apartment or perhaps go to the food bank. If that happened tonight, they should think of how devastating it would be. This was what was unfolding in November. Unfortunately, the government did not act on this crisis for Canadians.

The opposition parties got together and pushed back. In this wealthiest country in the world, we have to at least attempt to take action. Opposition parties should be proud of what they have achieved. The changes in the budget compared to the economic statement were like night and day. There are a lot of new initiatives and programs to assist a number of people in need. The Liberal leader put conditions on the assistance: it had to help the vulnerable, it had to create jobs for today and tomorrow, and it had to provide a plan to get rid of the deficit.

The NDP finance critic incorrectly suggested that there was nothing in those areas and a deeper analysis of the budget shows that not to be the case. For the vulnerable, of course, there was not everything asked for but there are EI changes. There are Canada child credit changes and improvements. There is improvement to the working income tax benefit. There are initiatives for seniors in tax, RRIFs and housing. There is housing for the disabled and money for youth. There are initiatives in forestry, manufacturing, agriculture, fisheries, the automotive sector, culture, infrastructure, home renovation, the community adjustment fund, as well as financing for business and small business tax credits.

One I fought very hard for was tourism. I am delighted there is money for tourism, which for years I have been lobbying for. I have also lobbied for the government to re-establish the GST rebate for individual tourists, which was not done. I know the industry wanted a previous promise kept to reduce the excise tax on aviation fuel by 2¢ and airport rents.

In the area of jobs for tomorrow, there is money under broadband, skills development, IRAP, infrastructure at colleges and universities, CFI and strategic training for people both on and not on EI. Of course, there was a plan to end the deficit by 2013, although there is a problem with some of the numbers.

Everyone can see we in the Liberal Party pushed hard and achieved a number of new initiatives and programs. The problem is that some of these initiatives look pretty good on the surface but are a mile wide and an inch deep. There are a number of areas where the help does not go far enough and could have gone farther.

As for the increase in seniors' exemption of $1,000, for instance, it gives them about 50¢ a day. Not much can be done with that. There is nothing for child care. There were suggestions on improving pay equity and with the record of the government that is a little worrying. There are strings attached to infrastructure. Some communities may not have matching funds, which could slow that going out. Of course, as has been mentioned numerous times, there were other suggestions for EI.

One might ask how we would fund these when we already have a huge $85 billion deficit going toward with the things I just outlined. Some of it could have been funded by the contingency fund at $3 billion and it was embarrassing that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance did not even know it existed. Between that and over $16 billion that the government went into deficit with before this crisis even occurred, there are $20 billion that could have been used for those initiatives had the government managed it well and kept the large surplus it inherited for emergency times.

People know I am normally very positive. I do not like to waste time on the negative items.

Why would the Liberal Party then put the government on probation to deliver these services and programs for the vulnerable and to protect jobs? The reason is because the government has a questionable history on delivering promises. Where are the three icebreakers? That was the government's very first promise to northerners. Where are the ice strengthened supply ships? Where are the planes for Yellowknife? What about the broken promise on income trusts?

Mayors have suggested that a large number of promises have been made with respect to infrastructure but the money has not flowed yet. Members can see why we want to make sure there is reporting on this plan so that these items can actually get delivered.

With respect to the north, I am happy that a number of the items that I lobbied hard for are in the budget. Tourism and mining are big in the north. The auto industry and the forestry sector are important also. I am glad these were added. I have talked about tourism already and the Arctic research centres.

The $90 million economic development fund, as I have stated, was running out and needed to be renewed. The formula kicks in with $185 million for transfer payments. There is $200 million for northern housing, small craft harbours for Pangnirtung and the Clyde River cultural facility, Northwest Territories harbours dredging and the Yellowknife Bypass Road.

To finish my time I want to comment on items that I have received from northerners who are concerned about different issues and have some suggestions to make.

One is from Jean-Paul in Whitehorse who wants a special program for the extra costs of providing wind energy in the north. Instead of that, the energy wind program was cancelled completely. People in that industry across the country are shocked.

Another issue is related to aboriginal housing in the north. If members look at page 105 of the budget there is $400 million for housing on reserves in the south. There is $200 million for northern housing but it is for all northerners; $50 million for my riding.

The minister from Calgary got into a lot of trouble in my riding when the money was not transferred directly to first nations but instead went through other governments. Now they want to know how much of that $50 million is for first nations governments. They are pretty upset again.

Brook and Dustin are worried that we will lose the vital protection of environmental assessments afforded to them under the Navigable Waters Protection Act. We will be watching that carefully for any changes and that should go under full review.

We had another suggestion for more investment in electoral reform.

The NWT Chamber of Commerce was happy with a number of initiatives like the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, the strategic investment fund, mineral exploration and the Arctic research facilities.

I had a letter from David Krutko, the MLA from Mackenzie Delta, who would like $40 million from the building Canada fund for the Peel River bridge. I am not sure how that fits into the total set of NWT priorities yet.

I have a letter from a senior in Teslin which states: “I would like to suggest that Canada might consider the possibility of restoring the seniors capital to pre-crisis level which would allow the senior to transfer his savings into a secure and insured account preventing further financial and lifestyle loss. I'm not sure how this can be accomplished. I'll leave that to the professionals. Hopefully our elected members in Ottawa will consider this suggestion and will be able to agree on a formula to correct this heartbreaking situation”. The letter is signed by B. Cooley.

Another issue which I am sure everyone in the House is onside with is the importance of inter-operability of equipment among our first responders, police and firemen and paramedics, to protect them and their victims. Public safety is doing a good job on this. Barack Obama and U.S. governors have it as a high priority. Mr. Obama spoke about it recently. One thing that would help with the good job that the government is doing is if radio infrastructure was eligible under the building Canada fund.

I had a letter from a gentleman named David but I am not sure if it was aimed specifically at the budget. He is a crane operator who has lost his job and is not eligible for EI because of some of the regulations that are in place. David is only one of thousands of Canadians who are in the heart-wrenching situation of wondering how they can care for their families, how they can live, how they can have shelter and clothing and not have to go to food banks or the Salvation Army, and not have to move.

I hope all of us in the House will work as hard as we can to implement as many things as we can considering we are the wealthiest nation on earth. We need to work together to help those Canadians in desperate need.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to ask a question of the member for Yukon. I know that one of the things he is very concerned about is the situation of first nation communities in Canada.

This budget purports to spend about $1.4 billion in first nation communities. The Assembly of First Nations, in its prebudget submission, suggested that a $3 billion stimulus package was necessary for first nation communities. The member knows as well that the last Liberal government proposed the Kelowna accord, which proposed about $5 billion worth of spending in first nations and aboriginal communities in Canada. So we are falling far short of what the first nation communities themselves identified, what his own party identified as was necessary.

Specifically, we see that this budget talks about $20 million over two years for partnerships to improve child and family services when the Indian and Northern Affairs Department itself says that this is underfunded by about $109 million a year. This budget only proposes $400 million for on-reserve housing, when the department again has estimated that in 2005 $5 billion was needed in housing alone to bring aboriginal housing on and off-reserve up to Canadian standards. This budget talks about $515 million for urgent infrastructure. That would only build 10 schools when 89 schools are needed across the country in first nation communities.

I wonder, given that incredible shortfall in funding to first nations, how this member is able to support this budget.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I know the hon. member has done excellent work protecting the first nations in his area. He certainly will not get any quarrel from me that for a long time there has been insufficient funding to change the disparity between first nations and the rest of Canadians. He is absolutely correct that we put in the Kelowna accord, when those funds were available, the biggest attempt in history to reduce those discrepancies. So I, too, am very disappointed.

Even the items he has lobbied for, and I notice that schools for instance are in the budget to some extent, may be an improvement over what there was in the past. However, these things should have been done long ago, and more money for water systems. Could members imagine if we had not acted immediately and it were not on some distant reserve, and if our water had those types of problems? These are things for which we have constantly pushed.

There are some steps in the right direction in the budget but as the member said succinctly, there needs to be much more. We will constantly, as we have in the past, push even more to reduce these disparities.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I congratulate, again, the member for bringing forward these issues that have been raised by his constituents. It seems to me, and I hope it seems to the House, that here we have a budget that has some funds and programs that would reach the objectives that we want to see with respect to the development of the north. The member has spoken about these. He has spoken about where he would like to see changes. However, he has also spoken about the process of accountability, monitoring the accountability, and how effectively those funds would be used and those programs would be utilized.

When these quarterly reports come forward, from his perspective of being able to respond on behalf of his residents and northern development, does the member see these reports being streamed into the relevant committee and then the committee recommending particular action? Is that the kind of responsive mechanism that he sees would be in the interests of regions across this country, in terms of extracting the very best of this budget, and doing the things that the budget intends to do and thereby improving it where that might be possible?

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member has less than a minute to answer that question.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, because of the short time I will not get into the details. I think that is an excellent suggestion. I think what is important is exactly what the member said. We need to know what is being spent because in the past small-town mayors have told us that they had not received any infrastructure from the building Canada fund that had been advertised year after year. So, if we have an official analysis where it is on paper, we can look at it

Second, as the member said, we could find out what is working, how many jobs are actually being created, and what is not working, and then all of us, working together in this House, could adjust the program so it is working better and target the investments so they are working as a better stimulus.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, in the history of a nation there are defining moments, moments that we mark with pride, moments that we mark with disillusionment, moments that fundamentally change the way we think about our country. The United States of America recently had a defining moment marked with pride and hope, a beacon for the future, the setting of a new course, a direction mapped with vision and leadership. We have not been so fortunate in this country.

It took the Conservative government too long to acknowledge the serious problems in the economy. The Conservative government took too lightly its request to close the House of Commons. Its inaction saw 100,000 Canadian jobs lost, futures made uncertain, lives disrupted, hope lost. When the Conservative government finally got down to business, catching up with the rest of the industrialized world and offering a stimulus package, while the nation waited for leadership, while a country held its breath in the hope of some positive direction, what the Conservatives did was tear apart the foundation of a federation. They sent a message that fairness does not exist, that vindictiveness outpaces vision, that bold initiatives are displaced by bad direction.

I listened intently to the Minister of Finance deliver his budget. I listened, read, reviewed and found very deep beneath his glowing words the ugly truth of how the Conservatives treat provinces in this federation.

A few short weeks ago I stood in this House and spoke with pride about how it felt to be a first generation Canadian and an eighth generation Newfoundlander and Labradorian working to build a great nation. I stand today with no less passion.

In what is touted to be a stimulus budget, in a time when governments around the world work to ensure that the success of their countries is secure, the Conservative government attacks certain members of its federation, penalizes them, retaliates against them and cuts them to the core.

Thankfully, Newfoundland and Labrador, through prudent and careful planning, is no longer receiving equalization. While the province has the highest per capita debt and many challenges to overcome, it is indeed making progress. However, this budget contains previously undisclosed changes to the equalization formula which have major impacts on the Atlantic accord.

The Atlantic accord sets the rules for the sharing of revenues with Ottawa of the offshore energy industry. Let me tell the Conservative government that by unilaterally changing the O'Brien formula for equalization, and penalizing--not stimulating, but penalizing--taking money away from Newfoundland and Labrador, $1.5 billion--$400 million in 2009, $600 million in 2010 and $500 million in 2011--is reprehensible, unconscionable and difficult to swallow.

This is no way to build a federation. It breeds an atmosphere of mistrust that will cause problems in the future. The provinces of Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador are the targets of the Conservative government today. Who will it be tomorrow? That is the question all provincial governments have to ask themselves.

In this House we often speak of huge numbers. We talk about millions and billions of dollars in expenditures. What does $1.5 billion mean to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador? It will likely mean the province will have less funding to help in health care and education. It will mean that some of the lowest paid nurses in this country will not necessarily get the wage increases they deserve. It will mean that health care facilities may not be able to recruit health care professionals. Care to patients may suffer. It means municipalities in the province that are trying to take advantage of some of the infrastructure programs in the budget may not be able to do so because they cannot come up with matching funds to put in place the kind of infrastructure they need to provide safe drinking water for the people in small communities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

These are real impacts on real people.

By making this budget change, the Conservative government is sending a message loud and clear to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. I am sure my friends in Quebec and other provinces impacted by the same change heard the same message. The message this budget sends with the penalizing of some provinces is that under a Conservative government we do not stand as equals, that trust is absent and in the face of adversity we do not share equally in the benefits of the federation, that doing what is right--

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order. I recognize the President of the Treasury Board on a point of order.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Conservative Provencher, MB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I apologize for interrupting the member on her eloquent presentation.

I believe the House leaders have knowledge of this. This morning when I tabled the supplementary estimates I was inadvertently provided with the wrong document, signed by the hand of Her Excellency the Governor General. I wish to sincerely apologize to the House for the error.

At this time I wish to provide the Speaker with a message from Her Excellency the Governor General signed by her own hand transmitting supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2009.

A message from Her Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (B) for the financial year ending March 31, 2009 was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Acting Speaker (Ms. Savoie) to the House.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that the House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Madam Speaker, the message this budget sends with the penalizing of some provinces is that under a Conservative government we do not stand as equals, that trust is absent, that in the face of adversity we do not share equally in the benefits of the federation, that doing what is right is replaced by doing the most to hurt.

Let me tell the Conservative government that it will take a lot more than the Conservative government to knock a Newfoundlander and a Labradorian. We have weathered over 500 years of storms. We have faced every adversity. We have stared in the face of injustice and we have grown stronger.

Now is not the time to play politics. Now is the time to do what is right. Doing what is right means understanding that this change very deep in the budget has grave impacts. Doing what is right means rethinking and discussing the challenges with those impacted. Doing what is right means the minister rising in the House to give assurances that would be the case.

This is a defining moment in the country's history of defining moments.