I have been in this House for almost 17 years and the one issue to which all of us have been sensitive is how we address our obligations toward our seniors, our men and women in uniform, and our youth, referring to youth programs, youth initiatives, investment in education. After all, we make speeches about the future of our country and it is our youth who need the right kind of education and the right kind of tools.
With respect to seniors and the fiasco that occurred, I am very pleased that my colleague from Mississauga South touched upon it when he was prompted by a question from our hard-working member for Yukon. I am at a loss for words. All I say is, let us give people the benefit of the doubt and let us move forward positively on that.
I am speaking to Bill C-47, A second Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 4, 2010 and other measures. The audience can see on the television screen, “Bill C-47, Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act”. With respect to the word “recovery“, given what is going on globally, the whole world is trying to recover from a lot of those toxic packages, to be polite, that we saw coming from the United States to different parts of the world and which affected different countries.
We are fortunate in many ways here in Canada because many years ago a Liberal government, under the prime ministership of Jean Chrétien with Paul Martin as the finance minister, took the initiative to address, for example, the banking issue. This was very instrumental in helping us deal with these very awkward and difficult circumstances today.
There were several questions on this bill. The member for Mississauga South said that it is such a large bill, with 199 clauses. He went into some of the technical details, but the average Canadian listening to this debate or reading about it, really wants to hear about the meat and potatoes, things that affect Canadians on a daily basis.
I had the privilege recently as a member of the international trade committee to speak with our counterparts as we move forward on the Canada-Europe free trade agreement. Common throughout the world is that every nation, in looking toward implementing programs to recover, to get its people working and its economy rolling, wants to trade. That is wonderful, because Canada is a trading nation too. All countries want to sell their goods and services, but in order to sell their goods and services, there has to be an economy somewhere that is able to purchase them. In other words, the countries have to have their finances in order.
We were speaking to our counterparts in England, for example. We were listening on an hourly basis to what was unfolding in Ireland, how it was collapsing and its banking system was to be taken over. There was no money available, et cetera. The IMF and Great Britain were to step in to help Ireland, and so they should because Ireland needs a stable, or at least a sustainable economy to purchase goods and services.
The United Kingdom for example, even though it is going through difficulties, relates to us. I want to touch upon that as it relates to the bill. The new British coalition government is moving forward by taking certain steps. As I was reading about them, I had to smile because it took me back to 1993-94. I was being taken back to the future. What the U.K. is doing today, other nations in the European Community and other non-European countries are doing as well. I will mention some of the things they are doing that were done here as well.
The United Kingdom is experiencing difficult times. It is going through an austerity program, if I can use that word. Some of the areas that are going to be spared from the cuts are scientific research, health, schools, meaning investing in education, international development, renewable energy and large infrastructure projects. Areas that are going to be cut are welfare, social housing, policing, which I thought was wrong, as well as government services, which I think was right.
Why am I bringing this up today? There are areas in the budget that needed to be addressed and were not addressed. I will point out two specifically.
My colleague from Yukon talked about health care. Year after year, for as long as I can remember, health care has been the number one priority for Canadians. Coincidentally, I found an article not too long ago that states that Canadians rank health care a higher concern than the economy. It reconfirms what my constituents have been telling me for decades.
What did the Liberal government do when Paul Martin was the finance minister? It implemented the Romanow report. Mr. Romanow said in an interview with Peter Mansbridge that the Liberals exceeded the recommendations. That was a 10-year commitment.
Why am I bringing it up? The Conservatives, in two minority governments, have not made a single investment in health care. When asked a question, the response on record of the then Minister of Health, who is the Minister of Industry today, was that the government will continue the funding, after last year's budget or the year before. In other words, it would continue to fund the moneys, the $58 billion, that the Liberals put into health care. Health care was the number one issue then and it is the number one issue today.
There is one other area, as I mentioned, that relates to the U.K. investing in scientific research, and that is that there has been very little investment in R and D. Everybody talks about getting their economies going and competing in the new economy by investing in R and D. R and D can only develop new jobs if we invest the money up front. Yes, it costs money initially, but as they say, we have to spend a dollar to make a dollar, and we know very well that the new Conservative government has not done that.
I will refer to an article, the headline of which reads, “Researchers disappointed by funding for innovation. Just keeps the lights on”. I am quoting; I am not being political, which I choose never to do. I choose to refer to statements made by others so people know it is not my biased comments as a Liberal member of Parliament but what Canadians or others, the foot soldiers, in this case the researchers, are saying. The article states:
Peter MacLeod, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Democracy at Queen's University, says “much of the funding promised to various agencies will do little more than “keep the lights on”.
There was some money; I am not saying there was not. How can we look forward to competing for the jobs of the future when the government budgets have not made any significant investments?
Why are we falling behind? Other nations are making investments and we are failing to do so. Here we are, a country that was miles ahead of all these other nations in terms of eight consecutive balanced Liberal budgets and tremendous surpluses. The last one, if I recall, when the Liberals lost office in 2006 was just over $13 billion.
The government gloats about our economy being in a good state and that we are better off than everybody else. That is true. So why are we not making the right investments? For example, Canada is still lagging quite badly. The United States spent $594 million in 2009, Australia spent $123.5 million, and Canada spent $19 million. How can we compete?
We all know the difficulties the United States is going through. Speaking of the United States, it even went through some updating of its health care system. Even Sarah Palin commented about our health care system. She used it. She got that right. The only thing she got wrong was mixing up North Korea and South Korea. The fact is she confirmed that we do have a better health care system, a system which she and her family used.
If we are not going to make the right investments in R and D, we are going to miss out on the jobs of the future. For example, China, the world's biggest polluter, has now become the world's number one green energy investor. China is putting its money where its mouth is. It is investing. Yes, China pollutes, but it is now saying that it has to address this horrendous issue. China invested $34.5 billion in 2009 on low carbon energy technologies. I applaud China. I am not saying we have to invest $34.5 billion, but surely to God we can make some decent investments.
We are missing out on the jobs of the future because we are not making the right kinds of investments. We see the United Kingdom making these investments, even though its books are in a worse mess than ours.
Of course with the health care system, which I believe needs modernization, that 10-year arrangement is coming to an end and Canadians are going to keep an eye on the government to see what its next step will be. One would think that as we were getting close to the renewal of the agreement, the government would commence discussions with the provinces, with the professionals, with the stakeholders. At least we asked Mr. Romanow to do a study. He delivered his findings and we responded. That agreement is coming to an end and the government has not even begun discussions. I worry about that.
The disappointments with the government are so many that I do not know where to begin.
My colleague talked about the $5,000 tax-free savings account. That is a good initiative, but given the circumstances today, one would ask how many families can put aside $5,000, and those are after-tax dollars. Not too many Canadians can do that because they are hurting. Maybe the very rich can do it and if they can, I have no qualms about it. Good luck to them. It is the right thing to do. The fact is that average Canadians cannot do it and there are no other initiatives to support these families. Why? Job losses are still occurring. Yes, there are little spurts of a few jobs here and there. We know the economy is not really growing. We also know that new jobs are not being created as fast as was projected by the government. The finances of the nations are not where they could be or should be. I will address that as well.
Canadians today do not have the confidence. Why do they not have the confidence? They are being told one thing and others are showing up.
For example, today we are faced with a $56.5 billion or $57 billion deficit from last year. The government actually projected that it was going to be about $52.2 billion or $53.3 billion. The Conservatives were off by almost $2 billion on their projections. At this time of the year, the Conservatives are saying it is going to be about another $55 billion or $56 billion, for a total deficit of about $110 billion. It is unheard of.
All the average Canadian has to do is go back a short 16 or 17 years and he or she will realize that our deficit was $42.3 billion. Seventeen years down the road, the deficit has more than doubled and there is no economic growth. There is no job growth. There is less revenue to pay down this deficit.
The upcoming budget will be the government's fourth one. It reminds me of the Brian Mulroney days. When the Mulroney Conservatives were in government for nine years, they did not meet one budget target.Year after year, they told us what they would spend but never met that target. As a result, the debt kept growing and, in 1993, we did what we had to do. We did the responsible thing, things that the U.K , Ireland and Greece are doing today. We hear that Portugal, Spain and other countries in the European Union are next in line. They are going through these austerity programs. They are doing today what we did responsibly.
Therefore, when the government of today stands and says that we slashed and burned, I want to remind it that the Conservative Harris government of the day and Ralph Klein were doing the same thing. We had no choice. It was sink or swim, as they say.
The fortunate thing is that we made the right investments in the new economy, for example, in R and D. We invested in education. We invested in small and medium size enterprises, which means they started generating jobs. People were paying into the system. Another important thing is that we were lowering payroll taxes.
The government talks about lowering taxes. I challenge it publicly when it says that it lowered taxes because it did not lower taxes. It said that it would raise taxes by 1.5% and then it said that, no, it would decrease that to 0.5%. However, 0.5% is still an increase and the government is trying to pass it off that it lowered taxes. It is still a burden on the employer and the employee. It does not entice employers to invest in new tools, in new equipment or in new hires. It de-motivates them. If Canadians are not working, they do not have earning power nor do they have purchasing power, which means goods and services taxes are not being collected, for example, that would go to invest in health care, in post-secondary education, in housing, et cetera. It is a cycle, if we look at it.
With regard to gas, my constituents are complaining they are paying an average of $1.10 or $1.12 a litre. Just a couple of years ago, the barrel was on the market at about $148 to $150 and gas at the pump was 85¢ to 90¢. Today, my constituents are saying that barrels of gas may be $80 at the most and are asking, why they are paying $1.10 a litre.
The point I want to make on the gas is that the current government also made another promise. It said that anything over 85¢ per litre it would take off the taxes. It has not done so.
Am I leading into promises made and promises not kept? I really do not want to do that. My speech today is not political in any way. It is more so to point out the frustrations of Canadians. What they want to know is how they can trust the government to manage the economy well.
One gentleman said to me that, at the end of the day, the debt is going higher and the deficit is getting out of control. Per capita, we are one of the most burdened nations at about $42,000 per person in comparison to Greece that is at $31,000 per person. That gentleman said that we were more in debt than those guys are and wanted to know how we were better off.
We could go on for hours.The government has lost its priorities. Two out of three Canadians have not given the Conservatives their vote primarily because they cannot depend upon them and y cannot trust them because they say one thing and they do another. They talk about lowering taxes and yet they are increasing taxes. The only taxes they have decreased are the corporate taxes.
It is not that I am against that, but it is a timing thing. We keep reducing those corporate taxes year after year when the nation is hurting today. It is times like this when the gas companies, for example, need to come on board and say that they will help the average Canadian. It is times like this where everybody comes together as a family and it becomes a give-and-take for the good of the nation.
When we look at what the government did with airport taxes and at what happened with the seniors and the GIS, it is shameful. When we look at the lack of investments in R and D, that is shameful. When we are looking at the government spending $16 billion in untendered contracts, surely to God that is unacceptable. What will Canada's benefit be from that?
Canada has spent over $23 billion so far in Afghanistan, and now we are going to—