Madam Speaker, I am pleased to continue this discussion. I have already flagged it will take some time to go over the Conservatives' economic record and what they have done with the budget to provoke a worsening of the Canadian economy.
Madam Speaker, to start off with, I would like to say through you to Canadians who have been sending in all sorts of commentary by emails, faxes, tweets, and messages on Facebook that I will read some, but by no means will I be able to read all of them today. There has been such a huge amount of information coming in.
I want to thank Canadians very much for making their thoughts known and to encourage other Canadians who are concerned about the reckless and meanspirited cuts that are contained in the Conservative budget, the cuts to old age security and the cuts that we saw in December to the long-term sustainability of our health care system, to write or to phone their local NDP MPs. If they do not have an NDP MP yet, we certainly encourage them to phone the nearest NDP MP across the country, because this information is very important.
I want to thank all of the people who are writing to us and sending us messages via Twitter, Facebook, email and fax, as well as the people who are calling us. Their thoughts are important.
I will read some of their messages before getting back to the Conservatives' lack of credibility on economic matters. First up, a woman from Montreal's south shore posted this message on Facebook: “This is a partisan and biased budget that will not help the country or its people. This budget was created by and for Conservatives. Is that what democracy is about nowadays? I think that we should remind the Prime Minister, who was elected by fewer than two out of five voters—fewer than one in four Canadians of voting age, taking voter participation rates into account—that he has to consider the 75% of Canadians who did not vote for him. The nation's budget is a budget for all Canadians, and I am willing to bet that this budget does not respond to the needs of 75% of Canadians. Just who is this government working for?”
A man in Montreal wrote, “Isn't it more than a little suspicious that the Conservative government, which is suspected of bending the rules and has been found guilty of violating the Elections Act, has cut Elections Canada's budget? That should raise more than a few eyebrows.”
I have many other messages here, but I will not read them all. I had to put many of them aside because question period was just 45 minutes long. Canadian families are certainly interested in this budget, but not in a good way. Canadian families are very worried.
Here is another comment. We have received a number of comments about the programs that have been eliminated, including the following comment from a person in the West Island area of Montreal.
Here is a little bit of good news for the Conservatives. A Canadian says that abolishing the penny is a good move. We have said that this is a penny-wise and pound foolish budget. Certainly we do not mind the abolition of the penny. In fact, it was the member for Winnipeg Centre who first raised this issue in the House of Commons. He has succeeded in his campaign. It will save money for the Royal Canadian Mint.
However, that was the only good thing this individual had to say about the budget. He went on to say, “That very minor point aside, there are numerous serious flaws in this budget from obfuscation on details to ideological moves towards libertarian chaos that the Prime Minister seems to be fond of.” He also said that the New Democratic MPs should keep up the great work.
Someone in Manitoba wrote, “The amount in the budget is a really inadequate amount for Canada's first nations. We will no doubt continue to hear of horror stories on reserves that are far enough north that they will not be easily seen by Canadians. The government continues to believe that most Canadians do not care about what is happening in aboriginal communities. They are wrong.”
Someone in Ontario wrote, “I heard your interview on Anna Maria Tremonti's program this morning on the CBC. Good job. There was also one person who was interviewed who brought up a good point about the budget and R and D. Some of the best innovation in Canada for all types of enterprises have come from our large cities in part because a large influx of immigrants bring all types of talent and work experiences from around the world, but this government is removing itself from the type of co-operative federalism and seems to be doing it from a perspective of ideology. This will leave our cities underfunded as provinces will struggle with their own budgets.”
We made that point as well. This is where we miss Jack Layton. He came from municipal politics and had a deep understanding of the needs of cities and the influence they will play in the future as a result of globalization.
The individual also wrote, “Hopefully the NDP will keep a careful eye on the impact of the federal budget and on provincial budgets as a result of this federal budget.”
We have a number of comments about the cuts to Katimavik. I will read some of them. As I said, the comments are flooding in and we will certainly endeavour to intersperse the comments we are getting from Canadians. As New Democrat MPs, it is our job to bring those comments to the floor of the House of Commons along with prepared presentations that we are getting as well.
My colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour just mentioned another one and I thank him for that. We live in a very interactive world. It is instantaneous. As soon as Canadians raise these concerns, we can bring them to the floor of the House of Commons. Evidently, there is a lot of opposition developing to this budget. People are emailing, twittering, and posting on Facebook their concerns.
A grade 12 student at Auburn Drive High School in Dartmouth said:
Seeing that yesterday the Conservatives and the budget cut has had a serious impact on my life and all those who are anticipating the dates on which we were able to go, the cutting of Katimavik is a serious blow to my future plans and without it I am completely unable to know what I am able to do without such a wonderful program. I have talked to many people about the amazing things that the Katimavik program does for youth participating within it. It helps not only students like myself learning to grow into a more mature and successful adult, but it also helps the community in which Katimavik is placed into. It is an opportunity for youth to do some good, to learn about the vastness of Canadian cultures as well as a volunteer program that had no reason to be cut. It does more good than harm. This is a serious issue. Please work as hard as you can to restore funding to Katimavik. Thank you for reading.
I thank her for writing in.
I have another message from a young woman from Saint Hubert who said, “I am writing to you about something that is very important to me and that is Katimavik. I just learned that this program will not be receiving any more funding from this government. That really saddens me because I am currently in the program. I just finished my first three months of the program and I have been living in Lethbridge, Alberta. Now, for the past two days, I have been in Sainte-Foy, Quebec. The fact that this program will be cut makes me really sad because before this program I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. Now, after going through these first three months I know exactly what I want to do”.
That is another young Canadian writing to us to denounce yet another program elimination by this government for purely ideological reasons.
Here is another message, from Sherbrooke this time, “I have not had time to read the Conservatives' entire budget yet, but I see that they have cut the Katimavik social program. I believe it is a very worthwhile program for youth development in our Canadian communities”.
I have received a message from a woman in the Eastern Townships. She just wrote to me on Facebook about the elimination of the Katimavik program and she thanks me for my prompt reply.
I will read one last comment. I have received so many that I could go on reading them, but I get the impression that this afternoon's session cannot be extended, unless the Minister of Foreign Affairs wants me to keep reading these emails.
I will read one last one about Katimavik, from Vancouver.
The email says, “Our family has been supporters of yours. We also strongly support Katimavik. Today's announcement to end Katimavik was a shock to me. Our family has been a host family with this organization for a long time. We have kept boys and girls from all over Canada in our home. All of them have been friendly, articulate and unique. Some of their best qualities grew and flourished through this program. Katimavik has nurtured young people to grow up, be great and give back to Canada. I believe the decision to terminate its funding was a short-sighted one. Please do your best to battle this decision.”
I would like to thank all of those who are writing in about Katimavik, about the cuts to food safety, the cuts to transportation safety and the cuts to environmental assessment.
The NDP caucus will continue to fight for these people on the floor of the House of Commons because Canadian families deserve better than they got in this budget.
I also received a couple other emails that are not directly related to the budget, but I thought I would answer them just the same. One of them was not a very kind email. It basically said, “Where does your suit come from?”, I think implying that, given the collapse of the manufacturing sector, I must buy my suits offshore. Madam Speaker, through you, I want to assure that Canadian that this suit is made by unionized workers in Hamilton, Ontario. I believe in supporting Canadian manufacturers. I am very proud of the suit.