Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to address the issue of this budget.
As members know, we have some serious reservations about this budget plan, primarily because of that four letter word “plan”. We do not see one.
What we do see is, and the parliamentary secretary has described it, a mixture of certain elements that the government surreptitiously wants to see addressed, accepted and moved on, and not having the courage to address some of those issues.
For example, he talked about remailers and the reorganization of Canada Post as if it was a fait accompli already but not having the courage to present the stand-alone legislation here so that we could have a look at what the government wants to do.
He threw around figures, for example, about the number of people in the printing business in this country. Of course, we know there are people who are engaged in the printing business, but they are not all engaged in the business of remailers. They are not all engaged in the business associated with whatever it is that Canada Post does relative to the printers.
It is a little bit too much to ask the Canadian public to support a piece of legislation that says “vote for us, we are good, we have the public's interest in mind, and by the way to those who are printers or involved in transportation or any delivery of service, this bill will address those interests, and it does that because it eliminates taxation”.
We are all left scratching our heads. What is it? There is a document that is 880 pages long. The government says it is the fiscal plan for the country, that it is the business upon which the country must live or die over the course of this next year, that it is the basis for the creation of jobs, but it is not willing to separate out some various items.
There is the issue about the re-transformation, and I say re-transformation because Canada Post has been transformed so many times since I have been here that I do not even know if it is Canada Post as it was before. There is reference to what the soon-to-be former president says about where Canada Post is headed and the business plan. There is mention of privatization, but no, not privatization. There is mention of the privatization of rural mail post offices, but no, we are not going to be privatizing those post offices. There is the fact that we are not going against the unions and CUPW, but no, that is not what it is about.
What is it about? Why would the government put all those questions and queries in the bill, while throwing out these little nuggets of whatever it is that is part of the fiscal plan, the economic plan, the economic strategy of the government, if in fact we can still talk about it as a strategy? Why would the government throw it all in this 880-page long bill and expect members of Parliament to be experts on it?
The government is not an expert on it. It has members of Parliament reading out speeches. The only jobs it is creating with that is for those speech writers who revel in the opportunity to have their mots of wisdom, their words of explanation, repeated over and over again so that they become speaking points and are read in this place.
These words say the same thing; we are good and they are bad. However, what is not talked about are the consequences of taking one move from one place to another. For example, if we talk about reorganizing the post office, reorganizing the way that we do international remailers, we cannot even discuss the merits of that. We cannot even discuss the financial implications of that.
We have discussed some of this in the past. I can give members some of the numbers. The government contests all of the numbers that the Parliamentary Budget Officer gave.
However, we cannot do that because we are talking about the larger fiscal plan of the government. We are talking about an economic strategy, which must be at the base of the authority that the public gives elected office holders, that the public gives chambers, assemblies of people, like this one here to make decisions on their behalf.
That is not what is in this budget plan. It certainly is not to be seen in that issue related to the post office. By the way, the post office is an important element of our society. Yes, it creates many jobs. It delivers and it is a stimulus for a lot of economic activities. It has general revenues of about $7.8 billion a year. In the large scheme of things, it is important but it is not the overriding issue.
The overriding issue is the plan that the government put in place to tax Canadians and to build on that taxation.
In my question a few minutes ago I talked about one very specific element. We need to get beyond the subterfuge that is presented in some of these fabricated speeches, otherwise known as talking points, that pass for debate in this place when delivered by the government side.
We need the government to tell us about what it calls its plan, that dirty four letter word again. We need it to tell us what it is going to be doing with our money and our confidence. That is the question that everybody here wants addressed. The general public wants the same thing.
Members have heard me say this before, that the Conservatives acquired a deficit in the last 18 months. They inherited a $12 billion surplus, which was gifted to them by the last Liberal government, and I realize that is not very palatable for them. It was a Liberal government that bequeathed a $12 billion surplus, and the Conservatives ate that up. Not only did they eat that up, but they squandered the opportunity to build on what was made available to them by responsible administrations that preceded them. We are now faced with a $55 billion deficit.
Any responsible, accountable government would have told us its plan. It would have addressed this. But no, the Conservatives sneaked in the back door and put themselves into a situation where they went from a $12 billion surplus to a $55 billion deficit. Then they say they are going to re-establish the economic climate. I want members to notice the word re-establish. The Conservatives are going to re-establish the economic health of the country, implying of course what everybody sees to be the obvious.
The Conservatives drove the surplus down to the ground and then say it was a synchronized depression-recession collapse. The Conservatives claim it is everybody else's fault. “The devil made me do it” is what Flip Wilson use to say in the sixties. I think he was the mentor for the current government, especially for the Minister of Finance. The devil made us do this.
We were fine as long as we lived under a Liberal administration, but now the world has decided to punish us and the Conservatives decided they were going to visit unhappiness on Canada. That is why we have a deficit.
The Conservatives are saying they are going to cut taxes, so that everybody else will invest in Canada and get us out of this deficit. That $55 billion amounts to about $2,000 per person in Canada. Every man, woman and child must pay $2,000 to reduce that deficit. Where will that money come from? It is going to come out of the pockets of people who work, corporations that still turn a profit. It is going to come out of the pockets and purses of every single Canadian. Everybody is asking, how else are we going to get rid of the deficit? When we had a responsible government, we did not have a deficit.
I notice the finance minister is too busy to appear here on a finance bill. I am sorry, I should not have said that. I take it back. The Minister of Finance could have spoken for himself but he asked the parliamentary secretary to speak on his behalf. He said that we need to create an environment for building the economy of the country. I would like him to tell me which industries the government is going to stimulate. Will it be the auto sector? It cannot be that sector because we have already given it $12 billion in loans and subsidies, et cetera. That sector is not creating any more jobs. The economy has collapsed for the auto industry.
Is the government going to stimulate the agricultural sector? No, because everybody is engaged in buying their food products from other places at a very competitive price. The government claims it cannot build a market for the agricultural sector because it should not be up to the government to do it.
Maybe it is the mining sector. The government does not believe in industrial strategy because it cannot be insinuated in the day to day decisions of private enterprise.
Maybe it is fishing. Can we see something there? Our coastal communities in particular might rely on that. Do we have a plan for it? Do we have something that is associated with biodiversity, the environment, investments in infrastructure to associate productivity with agri-production and with value added businesses? No, we do not have that because we do not find that is very productive, but we have a stimulus program.
We are looking for the stimulus program. Everyone in the country has a stimulus program. Every province has a stimulus program to get us out of a recession that the government threw us into because it said that we did not need to worry and that we should be happy. After the 2008 election it said that there was no problem in this country that it could not handle. It said that since it already had that $12 billion surplus that the Liberal government gave it, it could ride out the storm.
Bang, 14 days after the election we were in the worst economic crisis we could ever be. Why? Because someone on the opposite side was asleep at the switch, and that is exactly where the government is today.
Members of Parliament on this side of the House look at this and say that this is a tax and squander government. The bill is 880 pages of taxing and squandering. Then the government has the gall to stand up and say that it is reducing taxes.
My colleague from the Bloc Québécois, who made some reference to a question by a member on this side before, at least took the trouble to look at particular pages. I will bet that if he looks at the budget plan again, out of those 880 pages, he too will scratch his head in surprise and say, as he has said already, that people will be paying payroll taxes. There is an additional $11 billion in payroll taxes that will accrue to those who work and those who offer work.
I do not know why the government thinks that that is a stimulus. By the way, the Liberal administration for nine straight years reduced payroll taxes.
I am sure my Bloc colleague is also thinking that before reducing taxes because reducing taxes stimulates economic activity, surely to heaven, if we raise taxes on travellers by $3.5 billion, which I am sure is somewhere in that 880 pages and maybe one of the other parliamentary secretaries will do it for the Minister of Finance and point out to us, how does that stimulate further travel.
Here is the problem with subterfuge. The government sneaks it in under the pretext that it will make additional investments in security so that we can fly safely. It used the opportunity to build on paranoia just last December and it threw $11 million into buying scanners that everyone says that they might be superfluous but because we are afraid of flying and afraid of terrorists, it is a worthwhile investment. The government bought 44 scanners for $11 million. There is not that much space in our airports but it would find it and put them in and everything will be fine. Then, immediately after that, it will spend another $3.5 billion on another 60,000 of these scanners. Where is it going to put them? How will it encourage travel by increasing the cost to travellers by $3.5 billion?
No, the government will not use the word “taxation” for these things. There is a new moniker for all of these things now. This will be the government of fee for usage, not tax. If we are going to use the infrastructure of air travel, we have to pay an additional fee, which is only fair. Only 60 million people travel and there are only 32 million Canadians but they take about 60 million flight movements in Canada. Now the government will tax them an additional $3.5 billion for the audacity of travelling.
We want to see where in this budget plan there is the $1.2 billion for the G8 and G20 summit which suddenly out of the blue has become the new normal in terms of cost for putting on an international conference. The government has taken the word “squander” to artistic levels.
I will tell members about squandering. It is not just about money thrown away for building man-made lakes inside closed environments when we have hundreds of thousands of lakes right here in southern Ontario. No. It is the squandering opportunity.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance took great pains to remind everybody about the child credit, the $100 for every child under the age of six so that women and families could get out and work. The only place in the country that actually provides child care at a reasonable price is in Quebec. However, people living in Toronto or anywhere in southern Ontario who wants child care services for their children under the age of six, unless they are going to junior K, which is paid by the provincial government now after age four, will be paying $50 a day. If they get a discount, that might go down to $30 or $35. That means, at the very best, they will get either two or three days of child care services for their infant, toddler or pre-schooler. That is what that $100 represents. That $100 represented a plan, that was before it became a dirty word, a strategic plan to provide a universal and universally accessible child care program nationwide, in conjunction with the provinces, and the initial cost from the federal side was $5 billion.
The Conservatives turned around, took a reasonable plan that had already been negotiated with the provinces for $5 billion, and substituted it with $100 a month for those children under the age of six.
Talk about squandering an opportunity to build a legacy for the future.
We look at this financial plan of theirs and we see that another squandered opportunity is what they want to do with AECL, the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. We spent hundreds of billions of dollars in developing a national, internationally-recognized institution with very high-paying jobs for engineers and scientists to produce medical isotopes and other energies. We are leaders in the world on this. However, the government, in its classic modus operandi, its method of operation for everything, has decided to squander that opportunity, vilify the people who work in it, allow the institution to collapse into disrepair and then say that it is in such a bad situation that it will sell it off to some sucker so that we can export the benefits and the sacrifices that everybody had made in order to achieve those benefits in the past. It wants to hand that off to somebody else.We will turn back to being hewers of wood and drawers of water.
I am not sure about the hewers of wood anymore because the Conservatives' plan for the forestry sector and the 350 communities around this country that rely exclusively on forestry has been shameful, to say the least. They have abandoned the complete market in the United States and when the Americans call and say, “Listen, Canada. Back off”, we say, “How quickly?”.
We have not done anything in terms of promoting our products, either our first primary product or our downstream products, anywhere around the world, but we are quick to eliminate anything that involves additional research and development. Why? Because the government is afraid of the words “industrial strategy”. It requires some thinking, it requires a vision and it requires a plan. More important, however, it involves believing in Canada and believing in its citizens. The Conservative government opposite does not believe in any of it. That is why it has come up with a subterfuge of 880 pages, expecting everybody to buy a pig in a poke.
Do members know what? The Conservatives have made a mess of this country in the four and a half years they have been here and they deserve to be thrown out.