And toxic too.
Madam Speaker, the solution they provided attacked the most vulnerable. It attacked pay equity, the labour unions, et cetera.
Therefore, the Liberal opposition forced the government back to the drawing board, over the holidays, to come up with a meaningful budget to help stimulate the economy and protect the vulnerable from adverse effects.
As the official critic for national revenue, I sit on the public accounts committee, and the responsibility of public accounts is oversight of government spending. We have seen a number of areas where the government has not been accountable or transparent, and it has shown total incompetence in fiscal management. This does not span only the financial area; it deals with federal-provincial transfer payments, the health and safety of Canadians, the environment, et cetera.
There are positive things in the budget that we had asked for, and there are areas of concern. For example, we are concerned about the management of the home renovation tax credit. This tax expenditure has the potential for disaster, and we will insist on proper accountability.
It is because of this kind of dismal performance, the government's dismal economic performance—getting rid of the $13-billion surplus, going into a deficit, not being able to manage the economy—that the Conservatives' allies at the National Citizens Coalition, once headed by the Prime Minister, disparaged the government for poor management. In fact, the head of NCC has called on grassroots supporters of the Conservative Party, many of whom are already tapped out, to withhold political donations until they see some form of improvement on the part of the government.
The chief economist for the Toronto-Dominion Bank and a former senior finance official, Don Drummond, specifically pointed out that the home renovation tax credit looks like one big black hole with few safeguards and little room for accountability. Therefore, I sincerely hope that the Minister of Finance will consult carefully with his officials at the Department of Finance to make sure we do not end up with a Swiss cheese stimulus package that is full of holes.
The Canadian people deserve better leadership, and as the leader of the official opposition has indicated to the government, the Liberal caucus has put the government on probation. This stimulus package will be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure it is effective and accountable and that the money does move out to projects that the budget claims to support.
There are many parts of this budget that the Liberal Party fought for and are urgently needed by Canadians—for example, the national child care tax benefit, doubling tax relief provided by the working income tax benefit to encourage low-income Canadians to find and retain jobs.
We also asked for and strongly support a provision that will reduce the minimum withdrawal rate of RRIFs by 25%. As I mentioned before, the leader of the Liberal Party has indicated that Liberal support for this budget is conditional and that we will be reviewing the government's use of taxpayers' dollars quite closely.
There are some measures we welcome. These are the $400 million for construction of social housing; $75 million for the construction of social housing for persons with disabilities; $400 million for first nation reserves; and $200 million over two years in social housing. However, we have to have transparency and accountability.
The Conservatives have a habit of announcing and not delivering, especially in the infrastructure area. They have announced it in three budgets but have never made the money available. It is important that this money be delivered.
In consulting with my constituents of Don Valley East, they made it clear that any stimulus package must contain measures to protect the most vulnerable in our society, to secure jobs that we already have and to prepare the economy for the future. Canadians demand fiscal responsibility, and that is why we are granting conditional support.
Just today, Statistics Canada released data, and now the Minister of Finance is asking Canadians to prepare for a substantive drop in GDP. Economists are predicting a 3% to 4% drop in GDP, but this should not have come as a surprise to the government or to the Prime Minister, who claims to be an economist.
The stimulus package should have been done in October 2008, right after the election, but the Prime Minister was busy telling Canadians to buy stocks. There can be only two reasons the Prime Minister did that, either he was totally misleading Canadians or he was totally incompetent and does not know the economic environment and does not have an economic vision for the country.
If the Prime Minister and the finance minister were serious about the economic situation in Canada, they would not have called an illegal election for October 2008 and broken their own election law. They should not have been so neo-conservative in their economic statement, which had nothing, no stimulus package, and they should not have prorogued Parliament.
If the finance minister wanted $3 billion without accountability, the Liberals could not give it to them. The government needs to grow up and take responsibility. Without a vision or accountability, it is rudderless. That is why I would like to ask my colleagues across the way what pay equity has to do with a stimulus package. What does attacking the most vulnerable have to do with a stimulus package? What does the Competition Act have to do with a stimulus package? What do navigable waters have to do with a stimulus package?
I would like to let the Conservatives know that we have put them on probation and that they cannot put a whole hodgepodge of items in the budget and expect it to go through.