Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis, a great riding which has great representation.
I want to start by talking about the comments that were made by the hon. member who just spoke. He was very passionate about the issue of crime and making our communities safe and secure. I applaud him on his passion. The only thing is, I would like to point out that many years ago a lot of American politicians, congressmen, senators and the like, including Newt Gingrich, I believe, and even state politicians, spoke with the same amount of passion, and now they have come back from that and said that they should have put more emphasis in other areas, which the government is not doing currently.
When it comes to recidivism rates, it should be looked at in a holistic way and not just from the incarceration aspect. I will put that aside for a moment.
We are talking about accountability. It has been a while since we talked about the Federal Accountability Act. After several years of having the Federal Accountability Act in place, it reminds me of back in the 1950s when Ford introduced the Edsel. It went over like a lead balloon. It really just stuck around for no apparent reason and wheedled its way out of existence, but we certainly did not forget.
In this particular case with the Federal Accountability Act, it seems to be one of those issues with which we have become familiar when it comes to the Conservative government, where one has to practise what one used to preach.
There is a certain amount of accountability, to say the least, in all of this, including areas of the east coast, where the Conservatives talked about custodial management of the fisheries, when they talked about the Atlantic accord. These were issues that were put out there in the storefront as to what the Conservatives would do as a government. By the time Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and Nova Scotians picked up the product from the window in 2006, metaphorically speaking, and brought it to the counter in an election, it turned out to be a different product entirely. Members will get the idea of what we are talking about, and it goes to the crux of that issue and several more over the past four or five years, and certainly in 2006.
I would like to congratulate my colleague from Wascana for bringing this motion forward. I think he makes some very good points, even in the wording of the motion itself. He talked about the government complying with reasonable requests for documents, particularly related to the cost of the government's tax cuts for the largest corporations and the cost of the government's justice and public safety agenda, which I have already talked about, and a violation of the rights of Parliament, and that this House hereby order the government to provide every document requested by the finance committee by March 7, 2011.
At about 2 p.m. today, the Conservative government tabled documents in response to our request for information. Kicking and screaming, the Conservatives tabled the documents with the House.
At first blush the documents pertain to corporate profits before taxes, cost estimates of the F-35 stealth fighter purchase, detailed cost estimates of the Conservatives' 18 justice bills, including capital operations and maintenance costs by departments. Once again, that is what was in the title.
After a short little while and some investigation, we realized some of the issues that we must address after that tabling in the House. There was no information provided with regard to the F-35 purchase. The government documents do not provide any detailed costing of its 18 justice bills, just surface material. The Conservatives estimate that the 18 justice bills will cost only $650 million over five years. However, earlier this year the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that one single bill, Bill C-25, would cost federal and provincial governments about $5 billion per year.
The discrepancies are incredibly wide. The logic by which it is brought in is probably about two inches thick. It is time for us to give this some serious, sober second thought. That is why I am glad we are having this debate today and making the demand. I certainly hope, and anticipate, that the opposition parties will vote in favour of bringing the information to the House.
Also, Bill C-16, ending House arrest, would have no cost impact according to the Conservatives. Bill C-21, the white-collar crime bill, would have no cost impact according to them. Bill S-6, serious time for serious crime, would have no cost impact as well, on which we throw a lot of doubt, given the fact that we have seen some of the evidence, both in committee and in the House.
Each and every one of those bills would put more people in jail, would require the construction of new prisons and would require more personnel and operating costs. It is not credible that those bills would not require more expenditure. That certainly is the case. Time and time again the Conservatives bring the cost estimates into this House, yet the members that are debating this motion today state they are no longer a factor. The costs must be racked up in order for our communities to be safe and secure. I have nothing against that. The problem is one can say one thing to one group of people and then turn around and say something else.
I mentioned earlier to an hon. member from Quebec about the situation with search and rescue. We hope that sometime soon there will be a commitment to purchase an aircraft for fixed-wing search and rescue or search and rescue airplanes regarding the five bases.
In this situation, in testimony given at the defence committee, we heard from victims whose family members were lost at sea. It is not just search and rescue, it is the Coast Guard as well. At the time the Coast Guard and search and rescue did their utmost to ensure those lives were saved. What we are doing now is questioning the response times and the parameters of response times. Should they be shortened, it would require more resources, not better personnel because they are already the best in the business, in my opinion, but it would require more resources. As a result of that, the questions that came from the government were, “Do you realize the cost of this? Do you know that it is going to cost and extra $200 million, $300 million, $400 million?”
Costs become a factor there, but not a factor when it comes to this. That is certainly something we should question a little further.
I did mention the F-35s in this particular situation. There are many countries around the world that are now casting doubt upon their acquisitions when it comes to not just the purchase price, but also their operations and maintenance over many years. We must question whether this is the right time to be doing this.
As I mentioned earlier, the other issue is the corporate tax cuts. If we look throughout the European Union right now, I will not say that it is becoming a veritable basket case, but nonetheless it is a tough situation for the major countries, and not just some of the smaller economies such as Greece, Ireland and other countries, but also for Germany and in the U.K.
The U.K. is going through major cutbacks and increased fees, measures such as these, in order to curb what is about to become a staggering deficit that not just people's children but their grandchildren will have to pay off. In doing so, it is exercising prudence.
I remember during the election campaign in the United Kingdom the parties were not just bragging about how they would reduce taxes, but they were also bragging about how they were going to reduce costs. It seems as though every party involved, whether it was Liberal, Democrat, Labour or Conservative, was bragging about the fact that that party would cut more.
In this particular situation, information is needed. If the Conservatives are saying that they do not want to create more revenues through taxation, I have nothing against that, but I do when it comes to other things like fees. Recently they imposed a security fee at airports. They can attack us and talk about an iPod tax and the like, but why do they have a tax on travellers? Am I being facetious in saying this? A little, but I am illustrating the point. There are security fees involved because at the end of the day, they cannot pay the bills. It has to come out of general revenue, so there has been an imposition of fees on particular segments of the population.
I even would go so far as to say that recreational boaters now have to get a licence that requires a fee. Is that a cost recovery issue? It just might be, but it is an illustration of how things have to be done.
To curb this $56 billion deficit, if the Conservatives want to get back to a zero deficit in five, six or seven years, there will be some serious decisions that have to be made.
My hon. colleague across the way spoke of cutting transfers. Let me talk about that. They have a big issue coming up when it comes to health care and health care transfers. I would like my hon. colleague to stand up and talk about that for just a moment because at some point he will have to justify giving the same or more money at the same time as he is going to reduce this $56 billion deficit. Let us see if he can jump through those hoops.