Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to a motion of non-confidence we have proposed against the Conservative government. It is easy. The matter is clear. Parliament has lost confidence in the Conservative Party. Before we say we have lost confidence, as a matter of principle and to play fair and ensure it has a chance, we offer it the opportunity to show what it is capable of and what it can really do for the people. It cannot say that it will help one group of people and decide not to help another, that it will set one group against another.
At some point, we have to look at the facts. To give them a chance, we look at the facts. We look to see whether they have tried to make things better for the people, not only for those it represents, but for all Canadians.
Before I forget, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vancouver Centre.
First we have to look to see if the government passes the test. Good management of the country's public finances was in place. The Conservatives inherited a $14 billion surplus. Such surpluses were unthinkable in the time of the preceding government, before 1993. That government was a Conservative one as well. The Liberals put the finances in order. They made sure they made the people proud of their government. What happened? The Conservatives presented a budget in the spring of 2009 saying there would be a deficit of $34 billion because of the economic crisis. That does not necessarily mean assistance in the amount of $34 billion to the public. Part of it was due to bad management on their part and then part of it was set aside to help the public. The government and the Minister of Finance are supposed to ensure they deliver the goods and the figures. In March, the figure was $34 billion. Oddly enough, in June the figure had jumped to $50 billion, and in September, it was $56 billion. This is a record deficit for Canada. The first test has been failed.
My second point concerns help to the forestry industry. Forests are the natural wealth of the riding I represent. Most employees there work directly or indirectly in the area of forestry.
What did the Conservatives do to pass the test? In 2005, we, the Liberal government, announced help for the forestry industry in the amount of $1.5 billion, even before the major crisis hit us. It was a preventive measure taken proactively. It was $1.5 billion. Whom was it for? It was for the workers and their families. It was to ensure that, in the event of a crisis—as I mentioned—we could lessen the impact and be ready to move to another stage, as needed.
What did the Conservatives do after their election in January 2006? They totally eliminated the announced $1.5 billion. What else did they do for forestry when it came time to help the industry and the pulp and paper sector? During the crisis with the American government over red liquor and black liquor, what did they do? Absolutely nothing. They set up rules and conditions few paper companies could meet. If they could not meet them, it meant that employees could not work and families could not get the help they needed. In terms of the forestry industry, the government has failed.
As for employment insurance, that is an issue that I have been working on since I was elected in 2004 to ensure that the people I represent, and those represented by other members of Parliament, have a fair chance of getting the help they need to ensure that their families have food on the table, enough money to pay the power bill to heat their houses, the rent, the mortgage and the car payments if they live in a rural community so that they can get themselves to work once they find new jobs.
The Conservatives allowed the system to degenerate. People had to wait up to 55 days to receive their first employment insurance cheques, their cheques for one week's worth of benefits. Imagine a family getting no help from the federal government for two months, help that they paid for when they contributed to the employment insurance fund. When it comes to employment insurance, the Conservative government failed the test.
Now the Conservatives are telling us that they are going to come up with new rules, a new employment insurance system. With whose help? With the complicity of the NDP. When the Conservative government gives us its new definition of employment insurance and tries to convince us that it will benefit all Canadians, the important thing is to figure out who it will really help. Who will be entitled to benefits under the new system?
I want to talk first about the comments the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalismmade last Monday, when she said the people who will get employment insurance benefits are those who deserve them.
The people who deserve these benefits are all the workers who paid into employment insurance. In the eyes of the parliamentary secretary and her government, however, seasonal workers, people in the tourism industry, in construction, in roads, in the fisheries, in forestry, and so forth are not entitled to any additional weeks.
Why did the Conservative government turn its back on these people? Why did it not give everyone the tools that are needed?
Long-tenured workers can be just as much seasonal workers as factory workers. Seasonal workers may have worked 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years not just in the same industry but for the same company. They are long-tenured, but they are not going to get the help they need. Why do the Conservatives decide who will be helped and who will not? The Conservative government was a failure here. It flunked the test.
If we look at the entire economy and all our economic development, it is terrible to see how many companies all over the country have had to shut down. The workers in these companies lost their jobs—people who were the bread winners for their families. At first I told myself this happens to other people. We thought we were fortunate in Madawaska—Restigouche, but all of a sudden, we too were caught up. There were companies like Shermag, Fraser, AbitibiBowater, Atlantic Yarns, WHK Woven Labels Ltd. and so forth, just to mention a few of the names.
When it came to economic development, the Conservative government did nothing at all for these companies. It did nothing to help the workers in these plants. It did nothing at all for the families of these workers. If we look at what was actually done for economic development and assistance for industry, the Conservative government was simply a failure. It flunked the test.
I know I am quickly running out of time. Looking at just these few things, how can we have confidence in the Conservative government who said that people from the Atlantic region are defeatist? How can we still have confidence in a government that was given a chance to provide some rules, justice for the most vulnerable, and a system to get us out of the crisis? Instead of that, they did only one thing: fail.
You indicate I have one minute left. I still want to mention economic development and infrastructure.
It is all very well to announce infrastructure projects all over the country, but when Conservative members come to make announcements in a town and two months later no agreement has been received duly signed by the government to issue a call for tenders, it is terrible. It means that not one person can go to work because there is the two-month wait to receive the government documents and then there is the engineering assessment and the call for tenders. We are already in October, for heaven’s sake.
Winter is around the corner. There will certainly not be any work done on water and sewer infrastructure in November, December, January or February. That is only one example. The government has obviously failed as well when it comes to infrastructure. For that reason, it must—