Mr. Speaker, what the member for Prince Edward—Hastings talked about is so true. We live in a new world, and Liberals were in government at the beginning of the new world we live in. At that time, it was under Jean Chrétien and then Paul Martin. With that new world that the member talked about came a lot more responsibilities, and obviously costs, but somehow we managed them.
The unfortunate part, though, is that when we had to take those steps, there was the Reform Party, as they were then known, and there was criticism, negativity, anti- this and anti- that. Today, I am very pleased because we are hearing comments that we have to deal with the world, we have to spend money, and we have to go to conferences.
When the Liberals planned to go to conferences, to world trade summits or the G8 or G20 that was initiated by a Liberal former prime minister, Paul Martin, the members opposite were negative. They said we should not be there. So I am pleased that the Conservatives have turned around. Now they can speak as a government. The ones who do not have to make decisions, such as the NDP, can say anything they want to Canadians, knowing they never have to deliver. Nevertheless, the Conservatives now have a taste of what it is like to make responsible decisions.
Throughout the day I was listening to the debate and decided I did not want a prepared text, that I would select a few comments from different members who have spoken and add my observations and comments. Before I do, I briefly want to read for the record the Liberal motion for the day, which states:
That, in the opinion of the House, while Canadians are justifiably proud—
We stressed that because earlier a member from the government side said, “We are proud to showcase our country”. I support that statement. So we should.
—of Canada's upcoming hosting of the G-8 and G-20 summits and determined to provide effective and efficient security for the visiting world leaders, they are outraged at the reckless partisan choices and financial mismanagement that have caused the security budget for the summits to skyrocket to over $1 billion
I will not read the entire motion, but certainly it compares the security costs for the 2010 Winter Olympics, which lasted 17 days and cost the same money. These summits are a three-day event, I say to Canadians, that is going to cost us, the government says, $1.1 billion, and there is a contingency included. Earlier today, one of the Conservative members talked about a contingency plan, which I will address in a minute, which guarantees Canadians that it will exceed that $1.1 billion.
What does that mean? It means the government is going to be spending over $400 million a day. That is mind-boggling. There was discussion about the trade with China that the hon. member brought up. That is wiped out in three days. Where is the benefit? There is zero benefit. If anything, it is costing us money.
The member for Brant earlier today talked about contingency funds built in. When Liberals were in government, the way we made our country number one, the way the Conservatives inherited the best country in the world, $13.2 billion in surplus, a balanced budget and the lowest debt-to-GDP ratio was because we had a contingency plan for a rainy day, which was $3 billion. If that money was not used, it went straight to debt repayment.
The way the Conservatives manage the economy, they eliminated the contingency plan. In their budget preparations, there is no contingency plan. When the world, never mind Canadians, was telling the Prime Minister and the Conservative government three or four years ago that we are headed into troubled and difficult times, their attitude was no, we are fine, do not worry, be happy, there is no recession, nothing is happening.
We know what has happened today. Hundreds of thousands of jobs were lost. Are these summits good? Absolutely.
The hon. gentleman talked about this as a spinoff from the Pittsburgh summit. I agree. Part of the Pittsburgh summit was about how to get economic order moving, how to get countries working. That is why I brought up the environment, because today everybody is talking about the green economy. Everybody is talking about investing in new ways, more efficient ways, more effective ways, and more cost-effective ways of running our households and our cars. We have to make an investment in these new technologies to benefit future generations and for the beautiful riding of Prince Edward—Hastings to be environmentally sound, which I know it is today, and all others, whether it is the Rouge Valley system in my neck of the woods in Scarborough or whether it is High Park in Toronto, or wherever it is.
I am very disappointed that there is nothing to address the environmental issues. I understand why, because the last time there was an environmental conference worldwide, the environment minister who is the Minister of Transport today did not want to show up. As a matter of fact, the conference did not want him there, because he did not have anything to say.
The government has totally abrogated its responsibilities when it comes to the environment. I believe and my party believes that there is a future industry in the green economy. President Obama, for example, talks about investing in the green economy. All the other world leaders are talking about investing in the green economy. Rahim Jaffer is talking about the green economy. It is to create jobs. That is the environment. That falls under the envelope called “the environment”.
This summit is a disappointment to each and every Canadian who cares about smog, who cares about a clean environment, who cares about an environmentally friendly Canada. They have been tossed aside.
This summit started off with a budget of $175 million or $180 million. All of a sudden, it just ballooned. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice spoke earlier about our military. He said that the Liberals took away all the money, that the military had no money to buy new equipment, that we did that.
Let me just say to the member, because he is a new member, that at least I can say I have the benefit of having been around here 17 or 18 years and have had the great privilege of being the chairman of the national defence committee and veterans affairs. If anybody was there witnessing it, it was me.
On the floor of this hon. House, I asked General Hillier and the minister of defence at that time about the $14 billion in new equipment that was being talked about. I asked if it was new money, plus the $14 billion from the Liberal budget that they inherited, for a total of $28 billion. After three tries, he said it was the $14 billion allocated by the Liberal government. That is where the money should have come from for new equipment.
When the member made that statement, I will say respectfully, it was intellectually not true, just for the record and for Canadians to know.
Today, when we do not have moneys to pay benefits for a sick child who is suffering with asthma and we do not have the money to have our frigates or our submarines working and we store them, or we do not have the money to replace propellors, they have been in government four and a half years. They did not just take over yesterday. So they talk a good story.
That is what I am worried about with this summit, that there is a lot of talk, but when the government gets behind closed doors, is it really going to be in there fighting for Canada? We do not believe so, given the history, given what has happened in the past.
The government has misled Canadians in many ways. It has manipulated the messaging. It has been misleading Canadians. It has been manoeuvring, misstating and misrepresenting. As a result, the government has been mismanaging the economy. But enough of the letter M words; we will go to another part of the dictionary.
How has the government been misleading Canadians? It has been misleading Canadians in terms of the deficits and in terms of raising taxes. I will give one example. When the government brought its budget in a couple of years ago, it said it would lower taxes. The lowest tax bracket with the Liberals was at 15%. The Conservatives increased it to 15.5% and called it a tax decrease. Then they talked about EI.
In order for the economy to prosper, we cannot tax employers. What is the first thing the government is doing? According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, it is raising over $13 billion in employer-employee taxing. As a former employer, I say that would have cost me more money for my deduction as an employer, and of course, less money for my employee's pocket. Yet it is not raising taxes. If that is not misleading Canadians, I do not know what to say.
They have obviously misled Canadians, as they misled Canadians on the gun registry, for example. The member for Portage—Lisgar made defamatory statements towards Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair, who is a decent man, a good man, who calls it as he sees it, who calls a spade a spade.
I call on that hon. member to do the right thing and apologize to Chief Blair, because we know that the gun registry does not cost the $1 billion or $2 billion. Every time the government stands up, it is a different figure.
That is why we cannot trust the government going to the summit. It is always misstating the facts. We now know that it costs $4 million a year. We also know that it hid that report supporting the registry until after the vote. If that is not misleading Canadians, I do not know what is.
Earlier today, the hard-working member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour spoke. He gave us some examples of what we could do with some of the moneys.
My good friend from Sydney—Victoria, the hon. Liberal member, gave one example. He talked about the dredging that needs to be done in Sydney Harbour. He said that just 15 minutes of that conference would pay for half of the cleanup, and 30 minutes would wipe everything out. That is about $38 million.
As a member of the Greek community in Toronto, I say that one minute of that conference cost would help complete the Hellenic Cultural Centre, the first one, in its centennial year. Maybe the government will consider that.
The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour gave us some examples of what $1 billion could do. He talked about how we could support children in need, for example. He had a report that indicated that the national child benefit could have prevented 78,800 families, or 171,100 children, from living in low income.
That is the future of Canada. That is our children. Those are some of the things that I want the Prime Minister to think about as he goes to the conference.
I have often spoken in the past about the future of our country. I have great respect for our seniors and our veterans. We in between will find our way, but we have to give emphasis to the future of our country; that is, our young men and women. I agree with the hon. member that in order to be competitive, we have to reach out and we have to have a well-educated society.
Unfortunately, it is very expensive today. The government could take some of this money and invest it into education, as the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said earlier. He gave us some statistics when he said, for $1 billion, we could fully pay the tuition of 23,376 of the poorest Canadian students. Increasing the post-secondary student program funding to provide every first nations student who wanted to go to school with the funds to do so would cost approximately $700 million.
It could fund 28,571 Canadian graduate doctoral scholarships or 57,143 Canadian graduate master's scholars. That is preparing the brains for Canada to be competitive tomorrow.
The list goes on. We could reduce the student loan interest rates down to the government's cost of borrowing of 4.1%, which was a figure from 2008. We could expand the size of the Canada summer jobs program tenfold. That would help young men and women work during the summer.
That is part of the Pittsburgh spinoff, as the member said. It is helping Canadians get back to work. That is what I think these summits are really meant to be. How do we get our nations working and co-operating? How do we resolve issues?
One of the major issues is the environment. The government has done zero on that. I explained earlier why, because I think they might not have shown up on the hosting of their own conference.
The agency is just about to hire the staff right now. They are looking to hire two or three weeks before the summit. They do say that each person must pass a mandatory training program and have a security guard licence, which is fine. They are going to train them in a week or two to get ready to secure the world leaders. That is shocking.
This average security person is going to earn about $1,200 a week. That is about $60,000 a year. I am at a loss for words. There are people today who are hurting, who just want to earn something to put food on the table and we are going to pay approximately $1,200 or perhaps even more per week. I will let Canadians judge for themselves. That is all for a three day summit.
With respect to an audit, the Auditor General confirmed that her office will examine the spending. By the time the Auditor General does the audit it will be three or four years down the road and there will be no relevancy. God willing, the Conservatives will not be in government.
Kevin Page, the Parliamentary Budget Officer, also wants to do an audit but how can he? The Conservative government appointed him, but the minute he started putting the figures out, the Conservatives did not like it and they clamped down on him. They have taken away from his budget. He cannot do his work.
The message is very simple. Those who do not agree with the government are going to be shut down. Those who do not agree with the government are going to have their funding taken away. Certain groups, KAIROS for example, and certain work that they do, certain organizations that they reach out to, if it is not part of government policy the Conservatives eliminate the funds. Maybe they do not like the Greek community in Toronto and that is why it is not getting any funds for its community centre.
I have been asking since 2006, for four years, that maybe the government could contribute a $1 million or $2 million. The government has given money to other community centres, but unfortunately the Greek Canadian community has been starved. I do not think all of the Greek community votes Liberal. They vote Canadian and they pay their taxes, so they deserve consideration.
The estimates are really a concern. When the government included in the supplementary estimates the funding required for these summits, I do not know how it came up with the figure.
The summit in Britain for example cost almost $20 million. That country is very security conscious, maybe even more than Canada because unfortunately and sadly, certain incidents occurred in England. There were bombings. It has had other problems domestically and international interference. We would think that Britain would be spending more money to make sure when it hosts international guests that they are protected.
The question arises as to how Britain could do it with such a smaller budget when ours is astronomically high. We are discussing this subject because when we go back to our ridings Canadians are going to ask, “What are you guys doing? This is our hard-earned money”. The government talks about hard-earned money. It talks about choices. It talks about keeping more money in the pockets of Canadians. We agree with that.
I support these conferences. I believe that they have a value, but the hypocrisy around this is really hurting Canadians.
When the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was a member of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, he said that the conference in Nova Scotia was too expensive. Today he is a member of the government, but back then he was complaining about the $8.1 million for a conference in Nova Scotia. Today he is in the government and he is approving $1.1 billion and counting.
I close with this. Those people are now in government. They came to Parliament to do things differently. They are now realizing it is not what they see. I am glad they have had a turnabout. Hopefully when they become opposition they will not be as angry as they were last time around.