Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be back in the House today to participate in this budget debate, having been away for a while contesting a nomination back in Alberta. Of course that process gave me a great opportunity to connect with hundreds of people in my riding and get a sense of how they are feeling these days about the government and its budget. It is a real opportunity to be able to bring those thoughts back to the House.
Of course there is a huge amount of distrust out there among the public concerning the government and this budget, particularly when we look at the budget and see that really there is nothing new to speak of in it. With a few exceptions, it is simply recycled promises from the last 10 budgets of the government. We could not believe in the government following through on those promises in the last 10 years, so I do not know why anyone would believe that it will be any different this time.
The Liberal government claims that it is new and changed, but besides the facelift that the front bench has been given, the Liberals have not created any new initiatives. The budget just gives more proof to Canadians that the government is stagnating and has nothing new to offer.
For instance, we see no return of tax dollars to overtaxed Canadians and Canadian families. There is no reduction in individual tax levels, and the promise to reduce them seems to be absolutely empty. Do members know why it is empty? It is empty because the government and the Prime Minister had 10 years to do better and did nothing. Why should Canadians believe any of these promises in the new budget when the Prime Minister, as finance minister, had 10 years to make them happen? He had his chance and that chance is past.
The budget tries to make the claim that the government can be trusted to manage public funds, but clearly it cannot. We have continued record levels of spending. The government has been exposed as ripping off taxpayers in scandal after scandal. The government has been exposed as wasting taxpayers' dollars in program after program. This budget will change none of those things.
What reason has this government given Canadians to trust it? For a decade, the Liberal government has refused to create a genuinely independent ethics counsellor, failed to allow Parliament to review its appointments, failed to prudently spend Canadian tax dollars, failed to deliver on municipal infrastructure programs that adequately meet the needs of our communities, and failed to clean up contaminated sites such as the Sydney tar ponds.
These do not seem to be promises that were followed through on and, more so, they are failed attempts to pull the proverbial wool over Canadians' eyes.
I am my party's critic for natural resources. The budget has promised $70 million for mapping purposes in the Arctic as well as on the east coast. The government should have used this opportunity to start mapping the west coast, where there has been a moratorium in place for the past 32 years. The area off the Queen Charlotte Islands on Canada's west coast is believed to contain some 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and nearly 10 billion barrels of oil. With the moratorium lifted and the go-ahead to begin development, the west coast offshore drilling project could be one that brings British Columbia back to being a have province.
It would have a positive effect, not only on the local community and the province of British Columbia but also on Canada's oil and gas supply as a whole. With the technology available today, it is possible to develop energy resources without destroying the environment. As well, the record of offshore drilling in Canada is an exceptional one, as we have never had any major oil spill due to offshore drilling.
The government's involvement in Petro-Canada is a relic of the old national energy policy. The Conservative Party has long held that it should sell its stake. The free market is the best mechanism to determine prices at the pump. The government should get out of the business of selling gas.
The revenues from the sale of our $2.25 billion stake in Petro-Canada should not and must not disappear into the black hole of general revenues of the government. The profits should be used for fixing environmental problems that affect Canadians day to day in the prevention and elimination of air and water pollution.
The money from the sale needs to go to programs that are well defined and managed as well as having the ability to be measured. Gone should be the days when money is just thrown into programs that are more dreams and less reality.
The reduction of smog in cities such as Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary is an environmental priority that is a reality. If it is not used for this purpose, then the profits should be used to pay down the federal debt which is a result of the creation of Petro-Canada and should not be used to pay for more Liberal boondoggles.
Like everything the Liberals do, their timing is off. The government has waited too long. A month ago Canada's share of Petro-Canada stocks was worth $3.3 billion. Who knows what it will be by the time it finally gets around to actually selling the shares.
I, along with millions of Canadians, thought that in 1993 the Liberal government's plan was to eliminate the GST. It is now 2004 and this tax, which created endless surplus dollars for the government, seems nowhere near being eliminated. This money could be better used by returning the massive surpluses to taxpayers' pockets instead of ripping them off and taking it out.
The EI surplus, or EI ripoff, is sure to continue with an increase of $4.3 billion. The surplus will go from $43.8 billion last year to $48.1 billion.
The overspending on the ridiculous gun registry will continue. As well, the government has created an incredible amount of room for spending scandals in the future. The government's spending is rising, but the outcome for Canadians is not changing.
We have seen tragically in the past few months that our soldiers are dangerously ill-equipped. When will the government start making decisions for the betterment of Canadians, not for the betterment of its individual luxuries?
This new budget also promises an aid package for farmers hit by BSE. This aid is long overdue and much needed in this torn industry. Canada's case of BSE was detected 10 months ago and our beef industry has been suffering since. I have a hard time believing that the announcement came in a genuine act of support and concern. I believe it came more as an act preceding a federal election campaign. Sadly, it does nothing to address the issue of surplus cattle on farms, nor what to do if the U.S. border does not open soon. This aid package did not include any solutions for that situation and therefore is left wanting.
The budget reannounced a $2 billion Canada health and social transfer supplement promised in the previous budget. I think it has been announced five times now. The government announced $665 million over three years for the new public health agency that does not exist yet. Both measures were promised in the throne speech.
When the current Prime Minister was finance minister, he cut $25 billion in purchasing power from transfers to the provinces for health and education. Without this money, provinces were forced to double tuition fees in the 1990s and put more of the burden on students. I must point out that the government has made more promises to assist students, but its track record has been less than stellar for the past 10 years.
For instance, the government has not met any of the education targets it set out in the 1998 budget. If a budget from four years ago which the Prime Minister himself presented failed, why then would we believe that this one would work?
The millennium scholarship program has been so unsuccessful that even the government's own review has realized that it was flawed. Like this program, most of the other programs announced in the 1998 budget have failed to deliver even half of the money promised to our students. Our students are buried in debt.
The government has attempted to do something positive in terms of education, such as the Canada learning bond which would allow an RESP contribution of up to $2,000 for low income families. It is a good effort but quite frankly, who can predict what tuition fees and education costs will be 18 years from now? To help students in the first year and abandon them in the following years is unforgivable.
I could go on and on, but obviously I am out of time. I will save the rest for another opportunity.