Madam Speaker, when governments bring down budgets, people affected prepare for both good news and bad news, hoping naturally that the good outweighs the bad. No one could have prepared themselves for the bad news inflicted on the people of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
We all know there was much more the government could have done to stimulate the economy of the country, like, for example, recognizing the importance of the need to diversify the economy in provinces where traditional industries continue to experience difficulty. The fishery is one of those industries, yet there is no mention of the fishery in the Conservative budget.
While the government was undertaking its budget consultations, I wrote to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and the minister responsible for Newfoundland and Labrador, bringing to their attention the need in the riding I represent for infrastructure to grow the aquaculture industry. This was an opportunity for the government to help stimulate the economy in an area of Newfoundland and Labrador that had suffered immensely because of the collapse of the ground fishery.
I now know any optimism I had that the government would look favourably on helping the people of Newfoundland and Labrador was foolhardy.
Not only has the government decided not to help Newfoundland and Labrador weather the recession, but it has done irreparable harm by removing hard fought and hard won benefits under the Atlantic accord. According to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the province will lose $1.5 billion as a consequence of the actions of the Conservative government in the budget.
Such a move will have a devastating impact on the people and the finances of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. The loss of $1.5 billion will see the per capita debt per person in the province increase by $3,000. Newfoundland and Labrador already has the highest per capita debt in the country.
The Prime Minister is on record saying that every region of our country has to be treated fairly. Where is the fairness for Newfoundland and Labrador? What would motivate a government to introduce a measure that would be so harmful to one group of Canadians?
Is it possible that the Prime Minister is seeking revenge against a group of people that exercised its right in the last federal election to vote against the government and send six Liberal MPs and one NDP MP to represent them in Ottawa? While that has to be disappointing for a Prime Minister, surely he would not stoop to penalizing those people. The logical approach would be to try and regain the trust of those people, which is why I question the Prime Minister's motives.
Clearly the Prime Minister has underestimated the will of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to come together in a crisis. This move by the government has galvanized Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to the point that their preference today, as a result of the government's actions, would be to take the country into an election.
There is time for the Prime Minister to right this wrong. Acknowledging that a mistake has been made and grievous damage done as a result of that mistake, which he cannot allow to stand, would be the magnanimous thing to do, especially if he is sincere in his comments that every region of the country must be treated fairly.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are proud people who have worked hard for every benefit that has come their way. To ask they accept such an injustice that has been perpetrated on them by the government is simply too much to ask.
Anyone who knows the province's history, the hardships that people have endured and the injustices it has experienced over the years, would have to understand the reaction of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to this decision by the government.
I am calling on the Prime Minister to think of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and how this budgetary decision will impact them. He is the Prime Minister of all Canadians, regardless of how they voted, just as I am the member of Parliament for everyone in the riding of Random—Burin—St. George's, regardless of how they voted.
If I were to follow what appears to be the Prime Minister's example, I would only work on behalf of those who voted for me, and the Prime Minister knows as well as I do that that would be wrong. I am the representative for all the people of Random—Burin—St. George's, just as he is the Prime Minister of all Canadians. The time has come for the Prime Minister to show it.