Madam Speaker, representing Nanaimo—Ladysmith, I am proud to stand with my colleagues from the NDP, to speak to the question of both Conservative and Liberal priorities. I am proud that the New Democrats' fiscal record on deficit spending is the best of all political parties that have formed a provincial or federal government in Canada for the past 30 years. While we have been responsible financial managers, I am also proud that we have invested in what Canadians care about, what actually changes the lives of Canadians on the ground. We have pushed for more because we are determined to make lives better.
Growing up in Canada my whole life, I have watched the bounce between Conservative and Liberal fiscal leadership or ideology federally. It has bounced between spending on the wrong priorities, I would argue, and then rolling back and slashing and burning social programs and front-line social services in an extremely aggressive and destructive way. We saw terrible cuts to the public service in the 1990s, with venerated institutions like the CBC being cut, resulting in true loss of service delivery to people in remote communities. We have seen our environmental safety net eroded. We have seen our social safety net eroded and, at a minimum, not keeping up with the cost of living. Vulnerable people in vulnerable environments have felt the brunt of this pendulum swing of over-spending and then slashing and burning.
The Liberals' cuts in the 1990s were extreme. The Conservatives built deficits way back up. Somehow, they kept the reputation of being conservative fiscal managers, but it was just not true. Now, in criticizing the Liberals, this really does feel like a political game, and it Canada's most vulnerable people who pay the price of this game.
My biggest concern is that we have a government now in place that got a mandate from the people to invest in the people. The Liberals got a huge majority in the House. They had a tremendous amount of goodwill. However, they are not delivering the money to the people who need it the most, who really had hopes that deep investments would be made in social services again. Instead, we have seen strange and unpromised things happen, which I would argue are the opposite of promises made, like the government finding $4.5 billion to buy a leaky old pipeline, the Trans Mountain pipeline. Whoever would have thought they were voting for that kind of fiscal investment and that kind of good, conservative management, when they checked the box beside the Liberals? I personally thought, as a member of Parliament, the way to beat the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the oil tanker traffic risks posed to the riding I serve was to beat the Harper Conservatives. Who knew that it would be the Liberals who would deepen their investment despite their promise that they would redo the Kinder Morgan pipeline review, which they have not done?
As for the infrastructure bank, we certainly want and need investments in infrastructure. Local governments have been taking the brunt of this for decades. They have the biggest responsibility. They have been subject to tremendous downloads. In British Columbia, we have seen those downloads from the B.C. Liberals, and we have also seen them from the Liberals and Conservatives federally. Local governments do not have the taxation power, but depend on federal government partnership to deliver the federal infrastructure funding to be able to get their water treatment plants, their affordable housing projects, their bike paths and everything else built. The Liberals campaigned that they were going to invest in this way, but just did not get those investments out the door. They are still spending infrastructure money that the Conservatives promised. That is a long time ago now. Unfortunately, a lot of the infrastructure funding is delayed until after the next election.
There have been some good news pieces. I absolutely take those, and I am glad to see them, but we really thought it would be more, faster and deeper. There is only another year for the current government to show that it will deepen its partnership and invest and make up the lost ground that we felt under the former Conservative government.
The infrastructure bank again is a disappointment. As my colleague, the member of Parliament for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, pointed out, there is $35 billion in federal funding but much more, over $100 billion, called for from the corporate side. Therefore, with the corporate power at play in this case and the need for corporations to invest in the infrastructure bank, obviously there is a big profit motive that shareholders require to be met. Again, there has not been the expected delivery on the promises made, but lots of delays. We just have not seen enough on the ground so far.
We have seen the corporate tax cuts in the States. The concern we have with cutting corporate tax rates is that it pools money into what we call “dead money”, unproductive money that is not invested in our local economies and not getting the benefit it could. Selling our GM shares at a loss was again a wrong priority of the Conservative government, and we are now paying the cost of that here. At our constituency offices, people still talk about the cuts the Conservative government made to EI and the damage those did.
As well, there is the failure of the Liberal government over the last three years to truly reform EI. Only six out of 10 workers get access to EI. Women especially, who are more likely to work part-time and to be a precarious part of the workforce, are not getting access to the social safety net that employment insurance offers. If someone is a cashier, a full-time job in that business does not qualify them for EI. No wonder there are women who work their whole lives but just cannot get ahead. If they have a serious illness, get divorced or have something calamitous happen in their lives, it leaves them further behind and they tend to retire in poverty. They also live longer than men. In a country as wealthy as ours, it is just not fair that we are not investing in that area.
An area I have been particularly focused on is domestic violence. It is reported that it costs Canada $12 billion a year not to deal with the domestic violence epidemic, and of course the personal cost is tremendous. In the nineties, the Liberal government cut operational funding and many forms of funding for the front-line workers who were providing shelter, counselling and support for women transitioning out of abusive relationships. There were terrible cuts at that time, and then the dark decade of the Conservatives compounded those terribly.
Now we have a feminist government in the Liberals, a government willing to spend, and yet we are still not having support go to the brave and dedicated women working on the the front lines of the epidemic of gender-based violence. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, which we welcome, the taboo is being lifted from calling out violence and reporting it, and people have more faith now that the justice system will treat women well if they come forward. These front-line organizations are now getting an avalanche of calls for help. Imagine the bravery of a woman saying that she is going to take her children and leave her violent relationship only to be turned away at the shelter, as hundreds of women are every night. When she then says that she would like access to counselling, she gets put on a waiting list for six months. Will that woman return to an abusive relationship? Yes, she will.
As the New Democratic B.C. housing minister Selina Robinson said at the housing conference just yesterday, the number one thing that keeps women in danger in violent relationships is lack of access to affordable housing. Just on Friday, I launched a new campaign calling on the government to fund core operations of feminist organizations doing this front-line work. Applying for one grant at a time is speculative. It wastes the time of staff, competes with other organizations and is not a sustainable funding model. I know that the Minister of Status of Women understands this, but her funding solutions so far are not getting to those in need.
The government has failed to fund affordable pharmacare, failed to spend fully on the affordable housing we desperately need, failed to close the stock option loopholes and failed to go after the big corporate offshore tax cheats. Instead, in my own riding of Nanaimo, we have had front-page headlines about the CRA going after MGM Restaurant in a mean-spirited way. Even when the restaurant won its appeal after 10 years, the government is appealing that decision and going after these small business people. We also hear of people who fell ill, went on EI, were accidentally overpaid $200 and CRA went after them, the most vulnerable people.
These are the wrong priorities and the wrong spending by the current government. We really want to see it live up to the promise it made to the people.