It is very strange, Madam Speaker. We will have to explain the Conservative reluctance to have all these emails, tweets, postings on Facebook and the faxes flooding in to our offices across the country tabled in the House. That shows we were right. Rather than sitting and letting the Conservatives churn out their manufactured Prime Minister's office talking notes, we are ensuring that the points of view of Canadian families, seniors and workers are put forward in the House of Commons. Obviously the Conservatives are not willing to do that.
I will keep going, ensuring that those views of Canadians are represented here. This is not our House. It is not a Conservative House. It is not an NDP House. It is the House of Commons. It is the House of the people of Canada. Their points of view should be expressed, heard and understood on the floor of the House of Commons. I find it very difficult to understand why the Conservatives are so reluctant to have those views expressed and to have them tabled.
As my colleague, the member for Newton—North Delta so eloquently said, and as my colleague, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said, these are points of view that the Conservatives should be reading. They should not be just listening to me, to NDP members putting them forward. They should be reading them. They should be understanding how Canadians are reacting to their budget and they should be saying that since they have made some very clear violations of solid commitments that the Prime Minister made in the last election campaign, that maybe they should redo the budget that is keeping their commitment to the Canadian people, rather than the attacking and slashing of a wide variety of programs we have mentioned.
I will continue to read into the record a few more comments that have come from young Canadians. This is from another individual from the region of Halifax-Dartmouth, who says, “I am 18 years old, finishing high school in June. I was one of the volunteers going to participate in the July-December group. I've been preparing and looking forward to this for a while now. This would be my first time leaving home for this long. I would meet new people, make new friends and get a large amount of life experience that I just can't get elsewhere, and all the while, changing a community in my country of Canada for the better. Doing this would help me change my outlook on things and help me to fix problems with self-esteem and confidence. I planned my future around it.
When I heard that the funding was cut, I was devastated. I was counting on Katimavik to help with my resumé and employment options to show that I am willing to volunteer, that I am independent and have experience working as a team. As of right now, I have no idea what I am going to do with the next year of my life. I could work. There are few options for work where I live. Please bring back Katimavik. Give it the funding it needs so me and so many other Canadians can experience what it has to offer and make us better citizens”.
This is yet another voice of another young Canadian asking the government to listen to their voices, to listen about their concerns about the future, about a 15% youth unemployment rate, with all of the doors that the government has closed to post-secondary education, making it one of the least accessible education systems among industrialized countries. After closing all those doors to youth, the Conservatives closed off the final program.
We find that despicable. Canadian youth deserve much better.
This is another comment from a young man, again from the Sackville region of Nova Scotia. He says, “I was shocked and saddened to see the Conservatives' plan to cut the Katimavik youth volunteer program. We, the Canadian citizens, need our MPs to fight this decision and save Katimavik and so many other programs from the chopping block”.
Another comment comes from the island of Montreal. It reads, “I am writing to you to ask you to please help fight for the continued funding of the Katimavik program. The government has said that the program reaches a relatively small number of participants at a relatively high cost per participant. I hope from my example you can see that this is not the case. You see, I was a Katimavik participant 10 years ago, when I was 20 years old. I had completed a college degree and was working for minimum wage. To be honest, I didn't have much direction in my life at the time and so my family signed me up for Katimavik. I thought about the places I would travel to. I was excited. And what started as an excuse to travel the country, transformed the person I am, the person I want to be and my aspirations for the country”.
The person goes on to talk about growing up in a suburb of Toronto and not having been outside of an urban-suburban setting. However, this person lived in three different communities across the country, ranging from a small town of 500 people to a large town of 45,000 people and in a very multicultural dynamic with Canadians from across the country, including four Quebeckers and one native Inuit.
Another constituent from Richmond Hill, Ontario says, “Together, we learned to appreciate the differences between us, and 10 years later, it's clear to me that this is not something that a majority of people have a chance to appreciate. But it is critical for us to work in an effective, democratic society. So please, when you talk of the cost of Katimavik, please don't let it be spoken about in terms of cost per participant. By sponsoring Katimavik, the government is not just investing in a select few individuals. The government is investing in youth, investing in communities, investing in developing understanding between people of different backgrounds and investing in a future of a Canada that is full of engaged citizens. The Katimavik program is critical to maintaining these important values that I think we can all agree define us as Canadians. I can only hope that in the future the Katimavik program will be better known to all Canadians and will be able to accommodate anyone and everyone that wants to join”.
This is another voice from a young Canadian from Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia. This individual wrote to the member of Parliament, who is the member of Parliament for Sackville—Eastern Shore, the long-standing veterans affairs critic in the NDP caucus. It says, “Hello, I received an email earlier today informing me of the Katimavik project and how the funding for the program has been ended. In the email I was told that if I had an opinion, or wanted to make myself heard about this matter, to email my elected official. This is what I am doing now. This email is not for me, but for future youth who wish to sign up for this program and fail to do so for this same reason.
I have met so many people who have done this program and have come away with jobs and with new life experience that they put forward to their future careers. I work next to a group where one of them volunteered through Katimavik and years later she's back because she enjoyed the experience so much she decided to pursue that as her job. I'm stating my opinion on this as I am still counted as youth, and I'd like to make it clear that this type of cut in our government spending should never have occurred”.
I will move on to a another young Canadian voice from Edmonton, Alberta, and I would like to pay tribute again to the member for Edmonton--Strathcona, who states, “I was lucky enough to be a Katimavik participant in 2009-10. It's difficult to articulate just how much of an impact this program had on me as an individual, on my group and on the communities that we lived in. My group will always be my family, volunteering 40 hours a week individually and then evenings and weekends as a group. It did an incredible job of teaching all of us the value of hard work and perseverance.
The Government of Canada has attempted to justify its termination of the program with numbers. They say it costs too much for so few people, $45 million this past year for 1,000 participants, but what they fail to recognize is the number of people in all of the participating communities that this program has helped. My group was sent to Kamloops, British Columbia, London, Ontario and Dieppe, New Brunswick. I can honestly say that there are very few programs which foster national unity, cultural understanding and civic engagement as effectively as Katimavik, beside the basic life skills which we were all forced to develop along the way, neo-planning, event planning, budgeting, cooking, cleaning, etc. The grassroots impact of this program is unbelievable. Because of this program, I've learned to listen to others and consider that every opinion and every voice deserves to be heard”.
It would be wise to send all those Conservative MPs on Katimavik. They could actually learn listening skills and all the other things. As the individual said, “I've learned to listen to others and consider that every opinion and every voice deserves to be heard”. That is certainly the way we stand in the NDP, yet Conservatives do not seem to share that. Maybe that is why they are cutting the program. It is that respect to which they seem to be opposed.
Another young individual says, “I learned to speak French from my best friend in the program because it was no longer a subject in school. It was a way of understanding the points of view presented by my group mates. French was no longer a textbook. It became a face, a friend, a piece of me and a piece of my identity as a Canadian. By becoming involved in our community placements through our volunteer work, we became a part of our communities. Kamloops, B.C., London, Ontario, Dieppe, New Brunswick will always be a kind of home for me and I beg that Canadians listen to my story and the story of other participants and billet families and community partners, for if you do, you will hear the voices of thousands of Canadians who not only embrace this program but desperately need it.
The first photo which I've included in this package is one from the second month my group and I had been together, our first Christmas away from home. We decided to take pictures in ugly Christmas sweaters we found in a local thrift shop. Two months together and we already knew that we had a bond which could never be forgotten. This is my team and I will always be there for them no matter how many years separate us from the program and no matter how many kilometres separate us from each other”.
These are the kind of heartfelt expressions we are getting from young people across the country, from every province, region and community. They are all saying together, with one voice, not to cut Katimavik and that this program should never have been cut. Like so many other things that were cut in this budget, Canada's youth deserve better than what the government put forward in cutting Katimavik.
I will read another one in English and then I will read other emails that we have received in French.
This from British Columbia. This individual is writing to his NDP MP, the fabulous member of Parliament for New Westminster—Coquitlam, a strong representative. He says, “I have one very disappointed 19-year-old son this week. After several months of conscientiously preparing and submitting documentation for Katimavik, my son learned in an email that the federal government thought, in its wisdom, to cancel the funding for the program in the latest budget. I guess the concept of youth community service was simply too hard to bear for this reigning government”.
“I certainly understand the government's need to balance the budget, but honestly, encouraging the next generation of Canadians to develop their independence and citizenship and community service seems to me to be a budget priority well spent. The government thinks that it is a waste of money. Perhaps they can tell us why. The government wants to save Canadians money but perhaps simplification of the current tax system could help. I have personally discovered that there is a whole variety of complex and ambiguous exceptions within Revenue Canada and I have spent thousands of dollars of my time figuring out all of this complexity. Although I have never been a very political person over the years, I generally find myself increasingly drawn to the NDP vision for a kinder responsible government. I would hope that the official opposition NDP will challenge this destruction of Katimavik or at least identify alternatives for Canadian youth like my son over the coming months.”
We certainly will do exactly that. We will continue to fight the cuts to Katimavik.
There are other people speaking out. These comments are coming in from across Canada.
There is Ms. Allard, a woman from the riding of Honoré-Mercier, which is represented by a solid New Democrat. Ms. Allard says:
I am writing in reaction to the budget that was brought down today. I am just a student. I am not usually interested in politics. In fact, I rarely get involved. I get involved only when it is necessary, and today it is necessary.
The government has decided to stop funding the Katimavik youth program after 35 years. Katimavik is a program that allows youths between 17 and 21 to have an unforgettable experience.
Through that experience, the young people visit Canada, get involved in volunteer activities and participate in community life in the places they are assigned to.
Enough generalities. Let me tell you about my personal experience. I had the opportunity to participate in Katimavik from September 2008 to June 2009. Those nine months were not at all a holiday. As a young 17-year-old, I experienced highs and lows. But I survived; better yet, I grew up (yes, I will trot out that cliché). I lived in Ontario, Nova Scotia and Quebec. I worked with people from all over Canada and from various backgrounds: the young country girl from Ontario and the girl off the reserve in Saskatchewan, the city boy from downtown Toronto. All these people helped me learn about this beautiful country of which I am a citizen. Thanks to this program, thanks to the people I met, I am no longer self-absorbed and I take into consideration the reality of the people around me, the people who do not necessarily live as I do. Furthermore, the volunteer work helps the communities chosen. A number of organizations survive thanks to these volunteers. Every one of us can change the world. Katimavik empowers youth and helps them realize that this is not a cliché; it is true.
In general, Katimavik truly helps shape the citizens of tomorrow. It must continue to receive funding.
[Mr. Prime Minister], eliminating funding for Katimavik not only cuts help for communities, but also hinders the development of Canada's young people.
That is the voice of Ms. Allard in the riding of Honoré-Mercier. She is very eloquent when she talks about the importance of keeping the Katimavik program alive. We are all saying that Canada' youth deserve better than what this government's budget has delivered.
That is exactly right and we have heard it over and over again. Young people have told us that the program helped them to learn to respect Canada's diversity, to respect viewpoints other than their own, to listen to people and to understand them. These are all values that we need in Canada, that our youth need. We need youth who can think for themselves, who can come up with solutions and who can have a vision for the future of our country.
However, this government does not share this vision. This government absolutely refuses to have a vision for the future for young Canadians. We are saddened by this. We have a short-sighted government with a one-track mind that is so set in its ways that it is wiping an entire generation of young people off the map.
That is unacceptable. What is important is that so many voices are being raised across the country to say the same thing.
They are saying that this government lacks vision, that this government must do better for young people and that this government should not have cut vital programs for families, seniors and youth. We hope that the Conservatives will listen to these heartfelt messages from across the country.
I would like to read another message, this time from Montreal. This one says: “The government plans to eliminate the Canada School of Public Service's advanced leadership program. Once again, education is being cut. The young leaders of tomorrow cannot count on this government's support. Given the cuts that are being made to the public service and the attrition that will result in heavier workloads for fewer employees, would it not be wise to ensure that public servants have the skills they need to do their jobs? This is the Conservative government's vision: a pared-down and incompetent public service.”
This comes from a Montreal resident who is raising the types of concerns shared by people across the country.
I have another comment from a person from the riding of Hochelaga in eastern Montreal, which is also represented by a very good NDP member.
This man wrote his member of Parliament about the problems with the budget. He said: “The F-35s are going to cost tens of billions of dollars, as are the new prisons and the expenditures associated with invading Canadians' privacy. This government has lost our trust. This government seems to be even more right-wing than Sarkozy. When faced with all these facts, we have to say that this budget is not good for Canadian families.”
We wholeheartedly agree.
We are doing our best to keep up with all of the various comments pouring in from Canadians across the country. What it does show is the very close regard with which all Canadians and Canadian families are looking at this budget. That is why we are finding it difficult to keep up with providing all the comments as Canadians tweet them and put them on Facebook and in a wide variety of other places.
I will go to another Conservative riding. This comment is from a woman in Vancouver Island North from the town of Black Creek, B.C. She says, “My riding, Vancouver Island North, is one of those ridings under suspicion of electoral fraud”. She mentions the name of her Conservative MP. She goes on to say, “I have lived here for over six years now and I have yet to receive either a phone call or a written answer from my Conservative MP. I have called and I have emailed. Regardless of the subject or the number of times I have corresponded, I have still never heard from my Conservative MP directly. I thought he was supposed to represent and respond to all in his riding, not just his supporters. We have raised, a whole number of times, concerns about pieces of legislation that have come forward. It seems to me that the government, with the budget for example, seems to be thumbing their noses at all of us”.
She is hoping that the investigation into possible cases of election fraud in the riding are completed quickly because she does not believe that the ballot count was accurate.
I will now move from the west coast to the east coast to a riding in Cape Breton Island. This gentleman writes, “I have been trying to figure out how the budget will affect our fishermen. I understand that removing the fish habitat will endanger our waters. That is very bad, not just for us, but for future generations. What I don't understand is how the EI changes will affect my fishermen or the labourers that they employ. What effects will come to seasonal workers?”
I received another message from another individual on the east coast yesterday who wrote, “I am writing to thank you for the tremendous stamina and efforts today in the House. You did a great service to Canadians and I am grateful. At the end of the day today, you mentioned that you will resume tomorrow. I certainly hope that you do and hope that you can mention the two petition reports that I have attached here and possibly read a couple of the comments”.
The two petitions she mentions are “Keep Protection of Habitat in the Canada Fisheries Act”. I certainly mention that for Canadians who want to follow up on that. She also mentions “Save the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act from Further Gutting”. Those are the two petitions both in response to this budget and both with thousands of signatures.
She goes on to say, “From my personal perspective, this budget is a betrayal to Canadians and, in a broader sense, it is a betrayal to citizens everywhere. As a country that used to be respected and admired on an international scale for our decency, democracy and environmental protection and stewardship, we used to lead by example. Not any more. This budget does not respect Canadians' values or interests. It moves our nation backwards by decades, a mistake that will affect the entire planet, not just us. The reckless and expedited development of the oil sands will have a significant impact on global climate change”.
“This budget attacks youth, veterans, seniors, safe food, charitable and environmental groups, public broadcasting, agriculture, fisheries and the environment and only benefits industry and big oil. I believe that the increasing restrictions placed on scientists and the environmental movement goes against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My heart is heavy with the weight of what this budget, if passed, will embark upon us”. She is absolutely right. Canadians get what is in this budget. They get the attack on a whole variety of things Canadians depend on. Canadian families from coast to coast to coast deserve better than these cuts, better than these attacks by a mean-spirited government against a whole range of things that protect our quality of life.
With the passion we bring, all 102 members of this NDP official opposition caucus are determined to fight back on this budget because of the notes we are getting from people across the country and the concerns that have been raised by such a wide variety of Canadians. Canadians are right on the money about what this budget does.
When we were back in the seventh or eighth hour of debate, now in the tenth or eleventh hour, I quoted a heart-felt letter from a gentleman in Surrey, British Columbia, that brought hope to me and I hope to all of us. He is a life-long Conservative supporter who looked at the budget, read what the budget does, saw how mean-spirited it was and is now saying that people can change their way of thinking and that many of his friends and other people his age in his family are thinking differently about the government. Yes, we are passionately fighting back against all of the mean-spirited cuts that are in this budget, which repudiates everything that the Prime Minister promised.
However, we also have a profound sense of hope as we see Canadians reacting to the budget, as we see them waking up and saying, if they voted Conservative, that it was not what they voted for, as the gentleman from Surrey said so eloquently. In that hope, we know we can look forward to October 20, 2015, the day after the next general election, when it will be the first day of a new sunrise for Canada and the first day of the first NDP government in our history, because we know that will bring new change and hope to so many Canadians—