Mr. Speaker, I would like to say right at the top that I think it is a disgrace that it becomes necessary to call quorum here when we are discussing such important topics. I just listened to the speech by the Liberal member opposite who was talking about a very important subject and yet there was hardly anyone here to hear him, which is a disgrace.
Turning to Canada's fiscal situation, which is what we are talking about today, it has changed dramatically since the finance minister brought down his budget just a few weeks ago. I think everyone would have to agree that it is pretty obvious that the government's revenues will be way down this year from the predictions mainly because of the Liberals' incompetent handling of the Iraqi war situation and our relationship with the United States.
For example, I received an e-mail this morning from some Canadian friends who live in Sault Ste. Marie but who currently live in Tennessee. It stated:
Ted, I just picked up your email.
[We are in] Pigeon Forge [Tennessee and] our RV neighbour (from lower Michigan) said that he and his buddies had cancelled their annual fishing trip to Wawa, Ontario (north of the Soo) as they wouldn't feel comfortable under the current situation. When we played golf one day the starter said the executive of that golf course had held a vote on whether to ban Canadians from the course while the war was going on. The vote did not pass (so Canadians could still play) but in his view the vote had gone the wrong way.
Generally we have found an overwhelming sense of sadness that Canada was not supporting the U.S. but they can accept it. What they cannot accept is the assault by Canadian politicians on Bush and the U.S. position re the war.
Bill O'Reilly [a local talk show host] on his talk/news show [called the] (O'Reilly Factor) about a week ago stated that he had cancelled a planned holiday to Quebec for this summer. He did say that he would still consider going to western Canada because of their support [for the United States]. He is the one who has asked Americans to avoid travel to France and Quebec and to boycott buying products manufactured in France [and Quebec].
I received that e-mail from friends of mine who are in Tennessee and that is, apparently, what they are seeing on the ground there. That is happening all across the United States right now because of the incompetent handling of the Iraqi situation by the government opposite. It did not care when it made the statements in this place and outside of this place attacking Americans. It did not care what influence it would have and how it would affect our economy.
It will affect the government's budget because it will not have the revenues this year. It will see people lose jobs and income and it will lose taxes because of what it has done with its incompetent handling. It makes me pretty angry when I think about what the government has done to our economy through its carelessness and incompetence.
I will turn now to what the government does have in its budget. Earlier this morning the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development stood in this place and congratulated himself and the government for turning over control of aspects of the government to the Yukon.
I can tell members of the House that the reason I and my colleagues in the official opposition are here is that we want something like that for western Canada. We want more control over our future in western Canada. We are sick of the government taking money out of western Canada to spend elsewhere and giving us very little say over our future and our destiny.
On March 10, 2003, s a provincial congress was held in British Columbia hosted by our premier, Gordon Campbell, who is a Liberal but whose government just does not get on with that Liberal government over there. They really detest one another because the Liberal government of B.C. has more in common with the aims and ambitions of the Canadian Alliance than it does with the Liberals. Therefore Mr. Campbell is not very popular with the government. He called a provincial congress which was attended by elected officials from all around British Columbia: members of Parliament, MLAs, council members and mayors. We discussed issues that were affecting the province as a result of the government's budget, for example, federal fuel taxes. The fuel taxes taken out of B.C. by the federal government in the year 2000 amounted to $750 million, but only 1/20th of 1% of that went back to British Columbia.
Are members aware that the United States government spent more on Canadian infrastructure at the border south of Vancouver than the federal government spent on all of the roads in British Columbia? What an absolute disgrace that the very neighbours the government is insulting and attacking are the ones who spent more on our infrastructure. It is a darn disgrace.
Let us look at another way the government is meddling in British Columbia, with no reason to do so. The federal Minister of Transport has asked VIA Rail to prepare a plan to run subsidized competitive services with the privately operated Rocky Mountaineer Railtours which runs a railway from Calgary into Vancouver. Rocky Mountaineer took over a money losing VIA Rail operation and turned it into a huge tourist attraction, running at a profit. Why is the minister trying to meddle with the private sector? I suppose he is promising up to $3 billion more in subsidies for some incompetent railway to run services in competition with the private sector. We do not want it. The government is meddling in western Canada with this budget.
The softwood lumber issue is another example of incompetence. Over 80% of industry leaders now agree that it was the failure of the government to have a unified industry approach that is penalizing the British Columbia economy. It is why our forest sector is still in disarray. It is why the Liberal government of British Columbia is going it alone, visiting Washington, trying to get an agreement on lumber.
There is no doubt that the interests of the country are best served when the various levels of government work together. However there is no evidence that the federal government is the slightest bit interested in working with the Government of British Columbia and other western governments to make things better. It sees us as a cash cow to take money to spend elsewhere.
For example, there is mismanagement. The industry minister recently announced a $60 million handout to two private companies in Ottawa headed by an Ottawa billionaire, Terence Matthews. The minister claimed that the money was not a gift and that he expected every nickel of the investment to be returned. Unfortunately, the minister's Technology Partnerships Canada does not have a very good record. In the time it has been around it has handed out close to $2 billion but has only collected $35 million back. Even if it had been a success, what justification is there to give a billionaire grants from the taxpayers' pocket? Surely Mr. Matthews' bank would have been happy to fund Mr. Matthews' research projects. As if the handout was not offensive enough, the government has accepted shares in Mr. Matthews' company as part payment for the loan. Now the government is getting into the stock market associated with its government handouts.
I know I do not have very much time to talk but I would like to mention social insurance number cards. Last year, Canada's Auditor General revealed that there were five million more SIN cards in circulation than there were people in the country. Can we imagine what that is doing to its budget? Five million more SIN cards are out there than there are people in the country. People are probably falsifying employment insurance claims and all sorts of other benefits, such as getting grants. We know the Auditor General has plenty of evidence and has uncovered other scandals where people have been getting grants using falsified SINs.
I wish I had time to talk for at least 20 minutes about the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada where $140 million a year were blown away in ridiculous handouts. I probably have time to read one or two. The following was a grant given to Po Ling Smart at the University of Calgary who received $27,000 to study chop suey and egg rolls. At the University of Toronto, Mr. Hy Luong received $100,000 to study gender, class, religion and language socialization in Vietnam. Judith Knelman at the University of Western Ontario received $21,103 to study deviancy and the new woman. Stephane Brutus at Concordia University received $67,000 to study the cross-cultural investigation of multi-source feedback.
I have a long list of nonsense here that is wasted money. The government had better get its act together and revise its budget because its revenues are not going to be there.