Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today because this debate concerns ordinary Canadians. I do not think this is just noise for this Chamber. What happens as a consequence of decisions made here will make a visceral difference. That is probably not something we could have said for fact a few years ago in the sense that a wide swath of Canadians will be touched by what happens or does not happen in this House in the next short while.
I am speaking today, not so much in favour of Bill C-10, but out of the necessity to put forward some of the practical matters in it. On the preponderance of things that need to get done, we would rather start with this flawed bill and work in a different way, a way that I think many Canadians, when they are paying attention and when the things that happen here do matter to them, would like to believe this House is capable of.
To be truthful, there are things that we do not yet know about this bill in terms of how it will affect Canadians. However, I think it is important to lay things out for people, as I did a short time ago in my riding at a budget breakfast. A short time after the government's budget, I explained it to people in Parkdale—High Park at an early morning discussion to get their feedback. I think people came to a similar conclusion. They did not believe the budget addressed the needs of the country at this particular time. People have concerns, not so much about the motivation, but about the Conservative's conviction when it comes to the particular set of measures, whether they believe, in their heart of hearts, in these measures and whether they will prosecute in the interests of Canadians with all their being? I think very few Canadians believe that to be the case.
Frankly, some of the Conservatives who believe or have been led to believe that could happen regardless are upset about it. There is no doubt reason to look skeptically at Bill C-10 and the measures that it would put forward.
However, to get a perspective and a perspective that a surprising number of Canadians share in the sense of paying real attention to what is going on in this House is the difference between November, when the government said that its priority was to remove $5 billion from the economy and when it gave us all manner of prose and poetry about how it felt the economy was doing just fine and that it could actually cut government spending to the current point of running a deficit that most people thought was going to happen.
Mr. Speaker, before I continue, I would note that I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough Centre. He will probably have better words of wisdom to add to this perspective but it is an essential one.
People appreciate the kind of distinction we are drawing here, between a government changing its mind and outlook and being dragged there, no doubt, by some fairly extraordinary circumstances. I think another member of this House talked about the road to Damascus being like the highway that serves Toronto, the Don Valley Parkway being filled with Conservatives trying to change their mind, disposition and outlook on the economy. I think that is a relatively accurate thing. Whether they are driving those cars, being towed along or will actually get there concerns Canadians. It is a serious matter because the lives of Canadians hang in the balance.
One of the things I do agree with, which was mentioned by members of the other parties, is that this is not the budget in itself that will help vulnerable Canadians. For a time, I had the privilege of running food banks in Canada, a little too long ago for my liking in the sense that we started with emergency measures during a boom time in Alberta. I do not want to scare the members from there but those were the conditions that begat the first food bank in this country, and then we were in the grips of not one but two different recessions.
What this budget fails to recognize is the dignity of Canadians. It fails to put dollars into the hands of breadwinners in terms of mothers, fathers and families so they can sustain their dignity. What we should have learned from the last couple of recessions is that when those dollars are there, they will be best spent by those families. They will fall a little less further, get up that much more quickly and promote and look after themselves in a way that I would have thought the members opposite would have agreed but they could not bring themselves there.
The measures targeted for the vulnerable are light. The budget contains some money to build housing for seniors and it adds some additional weeks to qualify if one is on unemployment insurance, but it does not hit at the heart of the matter of the people who would not otherwise qualify. Many people in Parkdale—High Park work in temporary jobs and they are already feeling the pinch.
If there are members opposite who, perhaps because of their geography or their communities, doubt whether this recession is really taking a bite, I would like them to visit some of the people and families in my riding who have lost the hours and who have the least secure jobs. If there is ever going to be a reference point for us in the House, it should not be just the voting middle class. It has to be the people for whom many of the measures, institutions and programs exist. It is those who, through no fault of their own, need to depend on the measures of government for at least a short period of time.
What this budget misses in its entirety, because it has been wrestled out of a philosophy that does not quite get this point, is that if people are treated with dignity, they will do the best possible for themselves. They will live in poverty for the shortest period of time possible, but that, I have to report, is not how far we have been able to drag this government. That is not where it has gone.
That remains a measure to which the House needs to dedicate itself. It needs to find a means to bring forward provisions other than the ones being debated today. We need some of these other measures to come forward, even with the half-hearted and unmotivated, almost grousing, kind of enthusiasm from the members opposite, because many Canadians depend on the government continuing to function.
We want to address the value of this particular set of measures. We want to talk about how these measures will actually make a difference in people's lives. The way we will get to the value is the function of the House. Through committees, parliamentary officers and a variety of means, we have put the government on probation, because we recognize not only that it does not have in its target the general well-being of Canadians and Canadians who will be hurt or harmed by this recession, but also that it needs to be on a very short leash. It is not just benign reports, but a whole process of bringing forward to Canadians the actual implementation.
Last year the government did not spend $8.8 billion on infrastructure. It gave $1.5 billion back to the treasury over the last two years, and what it announced went disproportionately to its own ridings. It is not that the government that does not believe in government is suddenly converted to one that we can have faith in. It is because it recognizes that it weakened Canada ahead of this recession through the changes it made, going from minus $5 billion to plus $18 billion and paying for $16 billion of its deficit, as the parliamentary budget officer reminds us, which was a deficit built on some of the injudicious decisions it made. Tax cuts made in an untimely and non-targeted fashion lessened our capacity. However, that extra $18 billion needs to get out to the people who need it.
Infrastructure gives us cause for significant concern. In this area I do not just represent my constituents, but try to act as an infrastructure assurance office for the entire country. We will ensure that we get the information out of not just the minister and the ministry, but out of the government as a whole. There are a variety of programs that cut across ministries, such as programs in industry and Indian Affairs. The government has said a numbrt of things, and we need to make sure that a double value is obtained.
It is very important to understand that all members of this House have a duty. Their duty is not only to rapidly spend the money made available through this budget implementation bill, but also, and this is important, to get value for the money. It is really very important that all members in this House recognize this very important and meaningful responsibility.
Because we are borrowing this money, we have to make certain that we get the double value we are seeking. Yes, it is money that can be used to stimulate the economy, but it can also also be used to begin fulfilling a role in building a better Canada and in building some of the new competitive advantage. That is also going to have to be built in.
Just as we have to make sure that the vulnerable are not going to be missed, we are going to have to make sure that a government that lacks vision and imagination and has no view of the future is forced to focus on the things that will leave us stronger. That is what will justify our borrowing money to get this implemented.
Our competitive advantage is made up of the people we have. In the government's consideration, people had taken a place second to its own political machinations. It threw this country into a 60-day delay. Were it not for that delay, the disposition of the House and of the members on this side of the House would be decidedly different. We have decided not so much to give the government the benefit of the doubt as to give the people of Canada more than the benefit of the doubt. They, with timely assistance, will help us pull through. They are prepared to link up in new ways across government, industry and labour to find ways to make Canada work, despite the government's intentions.