Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to share a few thoughts and express some concerns I have with regard to the general direction the Conservative government is taking Canada. I have a number of concerns.
First, when I listen to many Conservatives speak about the budget, I cannot help but notice that they talk a lot about the economic action plan. Whenever I hear the economic action plan being referred to, the first thing I think of are the hundred of millions of tax dollars being used to advertise the so-called action plan. If we look at the baseline numbers of the government's economic track record, nothing could be further from the truth of an economic action plan.
One thought I would like to share with members is the fact that the government spends a great deal of tax dollars trying to convince Canadians that it is doing a good job. I suggest that money could be far better utilized in supporting a wide spectrum of programs that are of critical importance.
I want to talk about the government's resistance to good ideas.
Back in September, the Conservatives came up with the small business job credit idea to try to get small businesses to hire more people. The government talked about the potential of how it might be able to generate 10,000-plus jobs at a significant cost. The leader of the Liberal Party made an announcement about the EI premium exemptions for new hires. This program would create tenfold the types of jobs the government's initiative hoped to create. In fact, the government initiative, in a bizarre way, would be a disincentive for small businesses to hire and might ultimately lead to some small businesses having to let employees go.
The Conservative plan was questionable at best, but that is not the case with regard to what the leader of Liberal Party was espousing, a plan that would have the potential to generate tens of thousands of jobs all across our land. It would take advantage of the greatest potential for growth in Canada, and that is small business.
We have emphasized how important it is that government policy start focusing more on the middle class. The middle class has not done well under the Conservative government over the last half dozen years. We are trying to get the government to recognize that fact, to start making policy decisions that are going to allow the middle class to do better, to prosper and have more hope going into the future.
The Liberal Party is committed to acting on this. We believe in the middle class and if we want the Canadian economy to do well, we have to start to focus more attention on that. That is one of the reasons we shared ideas with the government and encouraged it to adopt the EI premium exemption for all new hires that small businesses and others would engage in. Ultimately, it would lead to a great deal more jobs being created.
The Liberal Party has talked a great deal about the importance of infrastructure. The government says that it is investing record amounts in infrastructure. When it says that, what it is really saying to Canadians is that it has a plan where it will spend billions of dollars in infrastructure, but what it does not to Canadians is that plan does not kick in until two or three years from now. The infrastructure is needed today, but that does not necessarily fit the political agenda.
Come springtime, the Prime Minister wants to say that the Conservatives will spend $100 million here, $50 million there on infrastructure. He want to make these commitments in the 2015-16 budget, as opposed to doing it when it is really necessary. It should have been brought into this budget.
We have municipal elections. Toronto has talked about the importance of infrastructure dollars and how badly it is needed. The successful mayoral candidate in Winnipeg, Mr. Bowman, has said that infrastructure is the number one issue. We need infrastructure dollars.
However, instead of trying to deal with the issue that Canadians need addressed, not only in this budget but even in the previous budgets, the Prime Minister 's objective is to put a hold on projects, not spend money and wait until the election year before committing to spend this money.
If we can learn anything by previous expenditure promises by the government, all we need is to reflect upon the current budget. We have passed budgets that have allowed the government to deliver on projects, but it does not spend the money, so the money lapses. On the one hand, the government gets to say that it will spend millions of dollars on this or that, but when it comes down to the actual reporting, we find out that it has not spent that money.
Infrastructure is important because it generates opportunities, such as opportunities for businesses to look at and expand upon exportation, which generates literally thousands of jobs. It contributes to valuable GDP increases, such as dealing with the real issues of potholes in the streets. These are the types of things which we believe are important, and the government has missed the mark by not investing in Canada today.
I talk a lot about health care. I know my constituents of Winnipeg North. I often canvas their opinions through petitions and questionnaires. They have emphasized how important health care is to our country. They want strong federal leadership.
We saw that when Jean Chrétien got rid of the tax point shift in the favour of direct cash, which saved indefinite financial contributions going from Ottawa to the provinces. The provinces need the cash to sustain their health care systems, but they want us to do more than that. They want to see a stronger leadership role coming from Ottawa. Paul Martin brought in the health accord 10 years ago. That accord expired this year.
Every time the Minister of Health and the government talk about record dollars going into health care, it has absolutely nothing to do with them. It is 100% because of Paul Martin and the health care accord that was signed 10 years ago. The Minister of Health has done nothing to protect health care going forward. Canadians are concerned about that.
I challenge the Minister of Health. Where is the new health care accord? Where is the federal commitment going toward health care?
The government has been found wanting on the important issues, whether it is the infrastructure, or health care or the unemployed. We challenge the government to step up to the plate and start to address the needs of Canadians.