Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.
I will give three reasons why the Conservative budget so richly deserves to die and why Canadians deserve much better.
The first reason is the budget makes bad choices. Because they go so far as to commit $6 billion to corporate tax cuts, the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary Canadian families that are struggling to make ends meet. Canadians deserve better than that.
Second, there is no fiscal accountability, as I will explain in a minute. When the Liberals made cuts, we itemized every line item in the budget that would be cut. The Conservatives give no information and therefore have no credibility on the savings that they propose in the budget. Once again, Canadians deserve better than that in terms of fiscal accountability.
Third, the government seeks to balance the books on the backs of the most vulnerable. Canadians are a caring, generous people. They will not go for this. Again, Canadians deserve better.
On my first point, that the Conservatives are left with a pittance to support ordinary struggling families, given their commitment on corporate tax cuts, let me give two examples.
The first of these is to compare the Liberal home care program and the Conservative home care program. There are three reasons why theirs is just a pale shadow, a totally inadequate shadow of our plan.
First, the maximum amount of money that the caregiver will receive is $300 under the Conservative program. It is $1,350 under our program.
However, it is worse than that. Our credit, the $1,350, is refundable, which means if people are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get the money. If they are so poor that they do not pay taxes, they get zero under the Conservative program, even though they have offered only a paltry $300.
Finally, our program, in addition to those grants, offers an additional six months employment insurance relief for caregivers.
The Conservative plan is pathetic because the government is saddled with this $6 billion in corporate tax cuts so there is no more money in the bank to provide meaningful help to families.
The second example is with respect to post-secondary education. The Conservatives are providing $34 million in additional help for students. That might sound like a significant amount of money, but it is about $1 per Canadian. It is about $34 per student. Nowadays students desperately need government support. The unemployment rate for young people is way up, so it is harder for them to get jobs. Often their families are hard-pressed and less able to support the education of their children.
The Conservatives are offering a meaningless, paltry $34 per student. Our Liberal program has not yet been announced, but our leader is passionate about support for learning and for post-secondary education. Unlike the Conservatives' program, our program will be meaningful, more in the order of magnitude, greater than their program. That is because we think very strongly that post-secondary education is crucial, not only to provide equality of opportunity but also to promote a strong economy and higher productivity through well-educated Canadians.
Through those two examples, and I could go on but I have limited time, I am making the point that the Conservatives put up window dressing as if they are supporting Canadian families, but the amounts of money are so small that they are virtually meaningless. Canadians will see, once the election campaign gets under way, that Liberal support for Canadian families is real. Conservative support is paltry to non-existent.
That is one of the reasons why I say Canadians deserve better.
This government makes bad choices. This government does not have any money to seriously support families because it insists on giving tax breaks to large corporations. Canadians deserve better. Canadians will see, over the course of the election campaign, that they will receive more from the Liberal platform.
The second point is fiscal accountability.
When we were in government in 2005, we saved $11 billion over five years. In the 2005 budget, line by line, and that information still exists, it said which programs would be cut, by which amounts, over how many years.
The Conservatives similarly claim that they will find savings of $11 billion over seven years, but they tell us nothing about where that money will come from.
I can give one example. On page 203 of the budget, we have alleged savings of something on the order of $500 million for one department, Human Resources and Skills Development. What are the sources of the savings? Let me read it:
Improve alignment of program funding with actual needs
Find efficiencies through improved program management and use of technology
Improve use of internal resources and administrative efficiency
Align program activities with core mandate
Refocus programming to benefit all Canadians
That is all the Conservatives tell us. It is gobbledygook. Those are weasel words. They mean nothing at all. There is no accountability, no transparency and therefore no credibility in any of these projected Conservative savings.
I come now to my final point, and that is the question of balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable.
As I said at the outset, Canadians are generous. Yes, they want to balance the budget, but they do not want to do so at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society.
My point is the Conservatives are balancing the books on the backs of the most vulnerable, both internationally and at home.
Internationally, last year, fully one-quarter of the savings were through freezing foreign aid, through freezing the CIDA budget. Therefore, one-quarter of the money to reduce the deficit was on the backs of the poorest people in the world. That was in sharp contrast to Britain, which favoured foreign aid. Even though everywhere else was getting draconian cuts, foreign aid was spared the cuts because of British commitment to poor countries. Canada is the opposite. Last year, the Conservative government got a quarter of the savings on the backs of the poorest in the world, and this from a starting point where Canada's foreign aid relative to GDP is embarrassingly low.
Not only that, but the finance ministe committed to me personally that he would have something for microcredit in his budget. We had a unanimous resolution to that effect. He agreed that microcredit was important for the poorest on the plant. There was zero in the budget for it.
It is not as if this balancing the books at the expense of the poor is only international. It is also here at home.
Consider the non-refundable tax credits for firefighters. A poor firefighter gets nothing. A well-off firefighter gets something, not much but something. A poor caregiver with income not high enough to pay taxes gets nothing to look after an aging parent. A richer caregiver, even though it is not very much, at least gets something.
Again, it is at the expense of the poorest and the most vulnerable. The fact is if a person is a poor firefighter or a poor caregiver, he or she gets nothing.
Finally, let us consider housing. Who is more vulnerable than aboriginals living on reserves in poor housing and other Canadians in poor housing?
The Conservatives singled out housing to receive no extension, whereas every other infrastructure program did. Hundreds of millions of dollars have disappeared from the budget in support for affordable housing on reserve and repairs to social housing. There are no Canadians more vulnerable than those people.
As examples, poor firefighters, poor caregivers, poor people living in substandard housing are bearing the brunt of the Conservatives' efforts to balance the books.
Canadians are a generous people. We want to balance the books, but not on the backs of the most vulnerable people in our country and abroad.