Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to join this debate because this is Parliament doing something purposeful and necessary. In some ways, it is on its way to regaining some of the respect that it requires to do what the country needs it to do in these difficult times. It needs to make clear the difference between governments that simply make announcements and that want arbitrary powers and governments that give effect to government programs so that they make a difference in the communities where people are losing jobs.
This debate today is nothing short of making sure that actual aid and support is delivered from this place to the place where Canadians live. Unfortunately, there is a group of people currently in the government who need to be persuaded of that, who need to be brought on board with the concept that they actually have that responsibility.
This is an opportunity for parliamentarians to defend their constituents at a time of economic crisis. We are asking Parliament to implement the budget so that it has the required effect: new jobs, fair allocation and high-quality projects and programs.
Unfortunately, there is no guarantee from the government. When the Conservatives were in opposition, and there are reams of quotes here, they encountered and embraced words like accountability and responsibility but we do not hear those words in any meaningful way today.
Incredibly, this debate is about a government that wants to have unfettered access to $3 billion without the oversight of the House establishing, as is required in its own rules of order, the requirements for due diligence. Contrary to what some of the members opposite might think, it cannot arbitrarily sprinkle dollars out there in its role as government. Instead, the traditions of the House are different and significantly different in a minority government.
Those are the reasons that the government is on probation. It finds itself not only on probation but getting constructive instruction from the House, and that is the nature of the proposal today, and what is going to start to change hearts and minds in this country in terms of the question they have.
Is the government trustworthy?
Is it possible to trust this government to deliver? That is the question people are starting to ask.
The average person, and I am sure there were tens of thousands watching question period before, does not comprehend why it is that the Prime Minister cannot stand up for unemployed Canadians and answer the question about whether or not he would consider allocating more dollars to help them. Instead, it is more a game about him and his prerogatives.
The idea that the government will not accept normal standards of oversight when it is looking to have extraordinary dollars is simply part of a pattern. However, it is a pattern that we are out to break. We are out to put the government into a mode of acceptable levels of governing. It is something that is very difficult for the government to do, and the track record and the facts underscore that very emphatically.
Let us rehearse what happened. The dilatory and obscurantist behaviour of the government, as some more eloquent speakers would say, is such that it actually got in the way of doing something on behalf of the country. The Conservatives pushed down the issues during the election and denied the recession was happening. They stalled for months.
However, there has been progress. The government has been compelled against its will to go from a $5 billion cut in programs to an $18 billion stimulus package. However, it only exists on paper until it is formed into programs that can reach people where they live, where people are losing jobs or need their jobs shored up by the investment that would actually touch them.
Whether it is in Summerside, Hamilton or any place in Canada, the government struggles on its own. All we are saying is that if the government is going to spend money, it needs to first say to the House where that money is going. The reason is that it has a track record of promising dollars and not delivering them. Only some 5% or 6% of the dollars have actually been delivered in the infrastructure programs in the last year.
Mr. Speaker, I want to mention that I will be splitting my time today with the hon. member for Vancouver Quadra. I know she will bring the perspective not just from that part of the country but from the same kind of place where Liberals have had to go to have oversight on the government and make it do its job.
In fact, in the government's own accountability report, of the over $2 billion in 2007-08, only 5% of those funds found their way to Canadians. One has to draw a distinction from it.
Canadians have become very cynical. They saw the Prime Minister practising the old politics out there the other week where he went around and made the third or fourth announcement about a project that is not actually happening and not employing any Canadians, but is there for the benefit of the government to be seen to be doing something.
Although the government says that it needs to get the infrastructure dollars out, the reality is that it has a due diligence process in place that requires it to look at each and every application.
A couple of weeks ago, a motion was moved in the House and, for whatever reason, the members opposite did not think it was good enough for Hamilton-Wentworth or for the ridings they represented. The motion was simply to flow the money to the municipalities through the gas tax method.
The gas tax method is one for which the municipalities and the construction association expressed a preference as the way to get dollars out by April 1. The same government that is telling us that it wants $3 billion to spend has said that it will not get infrastructure dollars out now until July and September because it will be too busy sorting out applications and trying to apply some kind of due diligence. However, there are warning flags that every member in the House should be paying attention to.
The government's record for the distribution of infrastructure dollars is about $2 billion and its promise this year is for something over $7 billion. It passes strange that members opposite are not standing in their place and demanding to have a structure to ensure the $7 billion will go to the communities. We must ask ourselves why they are so quiet. Why is there not one member on the government side expressing concern and qualms about getting all this money out there in a proper time and in a proper way?
It comes down to the temptations of governance. It seems as though the government and all its members will give into this. They do not want to give up their prerogatives. The gas tax method would distribute money on a per capita basis, which means that half of the money would go across the country, because every part of this country deserves to be protected from the downturn, and the other half could be used, as we will be suggesting, to address where the needs are the greatest.
Every member opposite voted against that method. They voted against the money going into their communities, such as the $20 million for Hamilton, because they believe they will be in a special place. They think they can make deals behind the curtains and get projects assigned in some method that is not described here in Parliament and accountable. That anchor to the old way of politics will do in the government if it cannot relieve itself from it. There is no question in my mind that the government will find itself stumbling over its refusal to take constructive suggestions from this side of the House.
The public has the right to expect that each member in the House takes some of the responsibility of ensuring that dollars land. The record is sobering. Of the $2.8 billion promised but not necessarily delivered, the Conservatives have skewed their promises to 70% of it landing in Conservative ridings. About 36% of the population voted Conservative but the Conservatives sense somehow that they might be able to turn this to their advantage.
I counsel the members opposite that that will not only disappoint their voters and let down the people who sent them here, but it also goes against the grain of what is happening. If it is $3 billion that will be spent, it is being borrowed from their children and grandchildren because the Conservatives put us into deficit to do it. If there has to be another standard, then those should be dollars that are treated in a much more thorough way and we should at least have this ordinary requirement to know where this money is spent.
The government will be revealed very shortly in terms of whether it can genuinely change. Some of the members opposite in other parties say that Conservatives cannot be changed. We are not worried about their moral character. It will be shown in time. We are worried about helping Canadians and this--