Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand in this House today and offer my thoughts on the federal budget that we have before us.
I wish to thank one more time the people of Guelph for expressing their confidence in me to represent their interests. I intend to make every effort to meet their expectations.
Following the election of October 14 of last year, I fully expected to see the imminent introduction of an economic stimulus package to guide Canada through the economic crisis. Indeed, such a package was promised by the Prime Minister at the APEC G20 summit. As a newly elected member of Parliament, that was the one thing that seemed assured, since the Prime Minister had given his word. It seemed to me that there was no doubt that Canada's federal government would have an obligation, a duty, to move Canada forward through recession. Alas, it was not forthcoming.
Canadians are nervous and concerned. Whether I am on the doorstep seeking campaign support, visiting the vendors at the Guelph farmers market on Saturday morning, or attending a round table discussion with social service agencies, the fear and worry is palpable. People in Guelph who have gone to the same jobs for 30 years are now seeing those jobs disappear. People are wondering if they should return to school for the duration of the recession. Others are looking to downsize their homes, while many more are struggling and sadly failing to pay their rents or their mortgages.
The last thing I expected when I first took my seat here in this House was for Parliament to sit for three weeks and then for the Prime Minister to break his word and send me home for seven weeks, his very first act as Prime Minister of Canada's 40th Parliament. I do not have the extensive experience of many of my colleagues, but to date, the 40th Parliament has seemed to be a series of unfortunate events and crises, brought about solely and irresponsibly by the Prime Minister.
I took advantage of the constituency time to conduct round tables and to visit families, businesses and organizations across Guelph. Guelph's economy is based in manufacturing and particularly the auto parts industry. The auto industry is facing unprecedented challenges as a result of the global credit crisis. I advocated for and continue to support the government's extension of immediate bridge financing to assist the auto industry, provided it is able to honour a commitment to reasonable terms and conditions.
There is no doubt that Canada's auto manufacturers must do business differently to succeed in today's economy. I am optimistic the auto industry's continued transition to advance flexible manufacturing plants, more environmentally conscious production and the introduction of more fuel efficient, greener vehicles will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the auto industry. Our community depends upon a prosperous auto industry.
The downturn in the economy reaches every corner of my community. The Guelph food bank has seen a 19% increase in demand for services. The United Way of Guelph and Wellington has seen a withdrawal of pledges made by as much as $150,000. Social services is seeing a sharp increase in Ontario Works applications. Times are tough and getting tougher.
We on this side of the House were clear and concise in our expectations for the federal budget. We asked for initiatives to protect the most vulnerable in Canadian society, minimize job losses, create employment opportunities, provide economic stimulus in a fair manner, and ensure the deficit is not a long-term burden.
The budget represents a marked improvement from the disastrous economic and fiscal update that we saw last fall, but if we have learned one thing from the Prime Minister, it is that we can expect a vast degree of separation in what he says and what he does. That is why the government is on probation. That is why the Liberal opposition will babysit this budget's implementation and execution every step of the way.
Canada has limited resources in a difficult time. We need to make the investments that create jobs and get results for the communities. Like other communities across the country, Guelph has been impacted by the recent economic crisis. In speaking with the mayor of Guelph, I know that an acceleration of infrastructure spending is urgently needed to help create jobs and stimulate our local economy.
Guelph is not alone in this urgency. Cities and communities right across Canada need quality infrastructure, the foundation of a strong economy into the future.
I have also met with the director of housing in Guelph and we are both interested in the Conservative government's new-found interest in affordable housing. We are anxious to see this commitment flow into Guelph to improve access to much needed affordable housing while supporting the residential construction and development industry.
Jobs have been lost while the Conservative government broke its promises to cities and communities. Nearly $8 billion, the highest level in years, was promised but not spent by the government.
Thousands of jobs have disappeared while the government sat on almost 10% of its appropriated funds. In the midst of an economic crisis, with job cuts hitting every community, the government has a track record of failing to deliver on its promises.
Time is of the essence in providing a stimulus package that can help maintain and create jobs in our local communities. It is my hope that the government will make good use of this opportunity to deliver on its budget. Part of that must include streamlining the federal infrastructure programs, so that funding can flow and projects can begin. My constituency of Guelph has a number of infrastructure projects that are ready to proceed when funding is available.
The University of Guelph is Canada's premier research university. When we look at environmental technologies, our food supply, water management, alternative fuels, manufacturing materials made from non-food agricultural products, we can identify research programs that are undertaken at the University of Guelph.
Research and development is essential as our economy moves away from a traditional manufacturing base and into a knowledge-based economy. Our commitment to research and our ability to attract and keep research talent is a vital part of Canada's competitiveness. It is incredibly disturbing that the budget makes no mention of Genome Canada, the only agency that regularly finances large scale science in Canada, and mentions cuts to funding to SHERC, NSERC and health research.
We see our neighbours to the south providing an economic stimulus plan that includes almost $4 billion for research. Without a mention in the Canadian budget, we are going to lose our best and brightest research talent unless we demonstrate a commitment and a vision for research in Canada.
I have heard from University of Guelph professors so discouraged that they are considering moving to the United States where there is clarity in investment in research. Canadians are looking to the House to make responsible decisions and act for the good of our entire country. In times of economic turmoil, government must provide leadership through short-term hardship and a vision to embrace the economy of the future.
We will be doing our part on this side of the House to ensure the government accepts and fulfills its responsibilities. I ask the government to please fulfill its responsibilities.