Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on the official opposition motion. As I listened to the President of the Treasury Board, I noted that he presented a bit of disinformation and I would like to correct something. I encourage him to read the motion itself and not simply rely on the briefing notes prepared for him. In the first paragraph, the Liberal Party motion clearly states:
... this House calls upon the government to table in the House, by April 3rd, 2009, a list of the departments and programs which are likely to require access to this extraordinary authority; ...
The extraordinary authority is the $3 billion blank cheque. The President of the Treasury Board tried to confuse the issue by saying that the government will be unable to provide this information on April 3 because, when a project is approved, if it has partners such as the municipalities or the provinces, those partners must be willing to make the agreement or partnership public.
However, this has nothing to do with the government's ability to table in this House a list of the departments and programs which, as the motion states, are “likely to require access to this extraordinary authority”.
The President of the Treasury Board, the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities and the various departments know whether their budgets will come out of the government's economic stimulus package.
If the President of the Treasury Board is claiming the government is unable to abide by the first paragraph of the Liberal opposition day motion, then that is an admission the government is clearly incompetent and does not merit the trust of Canadians to govern. For that minister to stand in the House and say that he does not know which departments might use this extraordinary power and that he does not know which programs may be used in effecting this extraordinary power is an astonishing admission.
I am sharing my time, Madam Speaker, with the member for Charlottetown.
I have been a member of the House since June 2, 1997. This is the first time I have heard a representative, a member of the government, say that he or she and the government do not know what departments or what programs may be used in order to realize certain objectives. It is unheard of. For the minister to stand and say that it would also be premature is nonsense.
The second part of the Liberal motion requires that once the approval is made, and clearly if there are partners it would be contingent on those partners also coming to an agreement and an actual accord, the government table in the House, within one sitting day of each such use, a report that discloses the name and location of each project to which the funding is being provided, including the federal electoral district in which it is located.
The reason this section is in the motion is the government's public records indicate that under its building Canada infrastructure program, the overwhelming majority of projects approved went to ridings held by Conservatives. I believe the figure is something like 77%. Clearly, there is something wrong.
The Auditor General, in the Ottawa Citizen on March 22, said:
I must say that I don’t buy the argument that they can’t tell them something—maybe not the detail of, say, what festival, or how much, but they could at least say where the money is going, whether it’s (to) infrastructure or festivals.
That is in stark contrast to what we have just heard from the President of the Treasury Board. I wonder why he is still in his position, given that he does not seem to have the basic understanding of how government operates.
The government comes to the House with a budget. It asks for spending approval and that approval is designated for certain departments and programs. For the minister to stand and say that the Conservative government cannot abide with the Liberal motion and that is why it will vote against it, is one clear admission of incompetence. If it is not incompetence, then it is wilful disregard to the public, to the right of Canadians to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
We are in too much of a dire situation to have the Conservative government play politics.
If we look at the employment figures for Canada only, in February we lost 82,600 jobs. That pushed our unemployment rate up to 7.7%. In January Canada lost 129,000 jobs. In fact, since October 2008, 295,000 Canadians have lost their jobs and have no income coming in.
We hear about Canadians who apply for employment insurance and wait two to three months before they receive their first cheques. Then we hear the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development show her ignorance of the law she is there to apply. She stated that someone who is eligible for employment insurance can access the fund the government put in place for training, even if they are not touching their benefits yet.
The minister does not know her own law. She stated that the budget is for people who do not qualify for employment insurance. Yet we have thousands of workers who have either lost their jobs or have been informed by their employers that they will lose their jobs before summer. They will receive some form of severance, but under employment insurance, they cannot begin to collect EI benefits until their severance has completely expired.
Under the Employment Insurance Act, those unemployed workers cannot access job training while they are living off their severance. How silly is that? If they were allowed to have their training immediately, there is a good chance they might find a job before their employment insurance benefits begin to flow. Saving money for the taxpayers and bringing in stimulus measures that make sense is too complicated for the government.
I urge all hon. members, including hon. members of the governing party, to read the motion, independent of whatever brainwashing information ministers have given them, and support it motion when it comes to a vote.