Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to join this debate on the budget implementation bill today. I have to say right at the beginning that I find it distressing that we are standing here and having to deal with a budget bill that is going to spend a huge amount of money and put us back into a huge deficit position. I am sure that all of us as parliamentarians are not happy about what has happened to the economy. We are hoping that we can work together and overcome some of the issues where we have differing opinions, and that we will do what is necessary for Canada and what all Canadians expect of us in difficult times.
Looking back a brief couple of years ago when the Conservative government was elected, its members were fortunate enough to come in during good, strong economic times and find themselves with a $12 billion surplus. Now we are talking about going into a $34 billion to $50 billion deficit. How fast the times have changed. It is too bad that money was not put aside in the rainy day fund in order to help Canadians during this very severe downturn we are having to deal with today.
Had the Conservatives not spent the cupboard bare, we would have had more resources and not have to be dealing with going into such a massive deficit, not even knowing whether or not that is really going to help us through these difficult times. But as responsible parliamentarians on this side of the House, we are going to do what we need to do and what Canadians expect us to do, and that is work together with the government to try to make sure we have accountability and that the investments are being done where they are needed.
Quite clearly we are not afraid to stand and put a motion of confidence in when it is necessary if we do not see the kinds of investments going where we believe would better serve Canadians. When looking at all of the decisions we had to make as the official opposition in this last bit of time, a very wise man I know in the House said quite recently “Canadians need another election like a hole in the head”. That clearly reflected on behalf of the official opposition where we were coming from, that we were putting the interests of Canadians first. We know we are going along with a budget that gives us huge concerns in various areas such as navigable waters and the changes being made to that act, as well as other ones. But on behalf of Canadians and in their best interests, we are going along with that. The wise man that I referred to, of course, was the leader of our party who made that comment about the election. It is a tribute to his level common sense approach that he brings to the challenges facing all of us in government.
We said earlier we would put the government on probation and will not be afraid to call the government to task if we do not believe that the investments are going in the right direction, that they are not meeting the needs of our country and meeting the needs of Canadians. Putting the Conservatives on probation and having a reporting process was a very smart, intelligent way of working with the government, working on behalf of Canadians and making sure that we were following through, and that the money would be getting where it needs to be spent and not just being scattered all over the place like the previous $12 billion surplus that really did not create any significant job creation or investment that we could actually point back to that really made a difference in the lives of Canadians.
We will be supporting the budget with reluctance as we have heard from many in the House on the condition that Canadians will clearly get the accountability and the help from the government that they expect and that they deserve to have. We are bringing the government to account by amending the budget bill. If the Conservatives are unwilling to provide this accountability, or if they fail to satisfy the expectations of Canadians, we will act and we are going to do whatever is necessary on behalf of the citizens of this country. That is our responsibility.
Canadians are going to get regular reports to Parliament on the budget's implementation and its cost, one in March, which we look forward to coming in soon, one in June, and another one in December. We will examine those reports. They will be the subject of much discussion and review, and we will go forward very carefully. Each of them will provide us an opportunity to withdraw our confidence should the government fail Canadians at this important time in our country.
There are some positive investments proposed in the budget. Some of the measures the Conservatives are putting forward, as a result of work with the Liberals and pressure from us, deal with investment in social housing and infrastructure, something we have been calling for, for many years.
When we were in government, we had a minister of housing. We had committed significant dollars toward affordable housing throughout Canada as well as investments in infrastructure. We all know that investing in infrastructure is a huge bonus for our country. We have an aging infrastructure and the needs are many. Investment in infrastructure, providing that it really gets done, provides an amazing amount of jobs and spinoffs.
The concern we had with the so-called building Canada fund is that very little of that money actually hit the streets of our cities. Instead, it was tied up in cumbersome red tape. It is up to the government to cut through that. The minister has said he is going to do all of that, but sometimes talk is just hot air and there is lots of it. The money needs to hit the street. We need to see the equipment out there and the necessary building going on.
There is targeted support for low and middle income Canadians through an expansion of the child tax benefit and the working income tax benefit. Again, we have to face the struggles of the unemployed and people with low incomes who cannot make ends meet. The government has a responsibility to be there when those people need a helping hand.
With respect to colleges and universities across Canada, young people are the future of our country. We need to invest more and provide the opportunities for education for our young people. This is critical if Canada is going to compete in the future. Those areas are in the budget because the Liberal opposition pushed for them. We intend to continue to monitor that money to ensure that it is getting to the places where it is needed.
There are some aspects of this budget that we are still concerned with. We will be watching very carefully and we will be holding the government to account. One aspect we are concerned with is the reference to the modernizing of pay equity for women. The Conservatives call it modernizing, but it clearly looks as though it is two steps backward.
Another aspect that concerns us is the heavy-handed and divisive approach to federal-provincial relations. This is a broken promise to all of the provinces on equalization. This is not the time to be getting into fights with the provinces, as they are all dealing with their own challenges in these difficult times.
What kind of strings are going to be tied to the infrastructure funding? What strings are going to be attached to the funding for the auto industry? It is important that the official opposition and all parliamentarians know, because we have a responsibility to do the right thing to make sure that the conditions that are put on all of these things are fair, adequate and will protect our investment as well as achieve the goal, which is to keep some companies operating. The auto industry is critical for Canada and there are spinoff jobs. I am anxious to see that they get the assistance they need.
The public service collective agreements have been undermined. Those are not the kinds of things that should be in a budget implementation bill. That gives us a lot of reason for concern, because they were negotiated agreements and it would have been far better not to have them in the budget implementation bill. They should have been discussed and negotiated rather than put in a government bill.
There is a missed opportunity to target significant stimulus toward the green sustainable economy. There are very few comments in the budget when it comes to the green economy. Changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the weakening of the environmental requirements are things that we have to watch very carefully. There are not enough improvements to the employment insurance program. There is no help for Ontario. I had hoped that the government would balance the employment insurance benefits all across Canada. Ontario is a have not province now and those changes need to be met sooner than later.
The Conservatives also failed to extend EI eligibility, which is critical during these tough economic times. There is no credible plan to get us out of an $85 billion deficit.
These are things that we on this side of the House are very concerned with. I would have liked to see more help for our veterans and seniors, who are also dealing with difficult times.