Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.)
|| That this House has lost confidence in the government.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in this House today to announce formally that the official opposition has lost confidence in the government. This is a serious step and we owe an explanation both to this House and to the Canadian people of our grounds for doing so.
We have lost confidence in this government. We are standing up for those who have been abandoned by this government. I will try to provide some concrete reasons why we will no longer support this government.
First, the Conservatives have lost control of the public finances of our country. A year ago they were at the edge of deficit and by February they were at a deficit of $32 billion. Suddenly, four or five weeks later, it is at $50 billion. At the end of the summer they announced that the deficit was at $56 billion.
Who in the House can actually believe this figure will not climb somewhere near $60 billion by Christmas? This is a terrible record of failure and someone must stand up in the House and call it what it is: abject failure on the public finance management of this country. They have no plan to get us out.
All Canadians must understand that this deficit will hang around the necks of Canadians like a stone. It jeopardizes our capacity to provide adequate health care for Canadians in the future. It jeopardizes our capacity to help seniors and guarantee a secure retirement for our fellow citizens. It jeopardizes our capacity to help the unemployed. That is the first reason we cannot have confidence in the government.
The second reason is a question we need to ask ourselves. We have a $56 billion deficit and what do we get for it? Do we have some grand new project that renews the infrastructure of our country, makes us stronger and makes us more united? What we have instead is a reward program for the Conservative Party of Canada. Conservative ridings have benefited disproportionately from this stimulus expenditure and we have the figures to prove it.
Then there is the issue of actually getting the money out the door. We have seen the press releases and have heard the announcement that 90% has been committed but when we actually look at the stimulus funding that we can see on the ground, 12% has gone out the door. I was at a soy bean field in Burlington. The Conservatives wish us to believe that it is a car park. I am here to tell everyone that it is still a soy bean field.
There is worse than that. The government has used taxpayer money and spent six times more promoting its own inaction plan than it has to promote the public health of Canadians and warn them about the dangers of H1N1.
That brings me to the third issue, which is the protection of the public health of Canadians. With H1N1, every Canadian can see on television that in other countries people are already being vaccinated. We are still waiting for a plan. We are still waiting for the vaccine. It is the government's responsibility and it has not stepped up.
If people were to go to aboriginal communities and talk to the chiefs, as I did yesterday, they listen with disbelief as the health minister tells them that 90% of them are ready for the H1N1 epidemic. They know perfectly well that their nursing stations are not ready. What did they get from the government? They got body bags.
We are not finished. Across the country, cancer and heart patients are waiting for nuclear medicine and diagnostics because twice on the government's watch over four years it has failed to supply an adequate amount of nuclear isotopes for the Canadian medical profession. This record of failure is just not good enough.
As if that was not enough, when the Canadian health system is under constant relentless attack from our ideological friends south of the border, what do we hear from the other side of the House? There is total deafening silence. That is public health.
Let us look at what Conservatives have done in respect of Canadian technologies and jobs. The government has been in office for nearly four years and the litany of great Canadian companies that have gone under, been bought or been traded away is getting longer and longer: Nortel, Inco, Falconbridge, Stelco and Alcan. There has been no attempt to defend Canadian jobs and Canadian technologies.
We are now in the absurd situation of having a technological hub, which is a world leader in the Kitchener—Waterloo area, sitting there watching while Canadian patents and technologies developed at home are sold to their competitors. How are we to create the jobs of tomorrow unless we have a government that stands up for Canadian technology today?
We welcome public investment but we want transparent public reviews so Canadian workers and employers can know exactly what undertakings foreign companies give when they come to this country, so that we actually do have net benefit for this country.
Let me move to another area where the government has failed Canadians. It has failed to protect Canadians abroad. For those named Suaad Mohamud or Abdelrazik, it turns out that their passport is not worth what they think it is worth. They cannot count on the protection of the Canadian government.
This side of the House says very clearly, so all Canadians can understand, a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.
Speaking of Canada overseas, the government, over four long years, has steadily diminished Canada's influence and weight overseas. Who in the world can take us seriously as a partner in climate change? We were missing in action at Bali, and we will be missing in action in Copenhagen if the government survives.
Who will actually listen to Canada on the climate change issue? We have had three ministers of the environment, three plans and no action. We have lost all credibility on this issue in the international arena. Who would vote for Canada?
Who would vote for Canada in the Security Council? We have held a seat there almost every decade since the founding of the institution. Who would vote for Canada in the Security Council when the Prime Minister of Canada cannot even bother to show up at the UN General Assembly?
Who in China or India will take seriously Canadian entrepreneurship, Canadian technology, Canadian products if the Prime Minister of Canada cannot even bother to show up to lead trade missions to open those markets to our Canadian entrepreneurs?
These are the kinds of failings that have made us, week after week, month after month, not just over the last year but over four long years, come to the conclusion that we cannot continue to support the government.
Is this a pattern of incompetence or is this a pattern of malice? It is a little of both but there is something else going on that needs to be called by its proper name. There is a deeper design here, a design to permanently weaken the capacity of the federal Government of Canada to help Canadians.
There is, on the opposite side of the House, what could be called the starve-the-beast ideology. We know where that ideology comes from but it is not suited to Canada. It will weaken and eventually it could change Canada beyond recognition.
This party stands against that ideology all the way down. We stand against it because we believe profoundly that if this ideology prevails in this country, it will permanently weaken the tissues that bind our society together, the health care system of which we are so proud, the care for the aged which distinguishes us as a civilized society, and the capacity of our society to provide security in retirement.
The government works on one plan and one plan only, starve the beast, lower expectations of government so far until Canadians cease to have any expectations of the federal government whatsoever. This is an unworthy way to govern this country, and we stand against it.
Canadians are not looking for a centralizing government. This party has a vision of a government that works with others; a government that reflects real Canadian values like helping others, and not every person for themselves; values like compassion and competence. Canadians are looking for a government that understands words like compromise, collaboration, compassion and respect. We are waiting in vain for a government that embodies these values.
It is not just the Conservatives' ideology. It is not just their policies. It is the way they conduct politics in this country, what they have done to our politics. All adversaries are enemies. We cannot run Canada that way. This is not a country that we can divide in that way.
All adversaries are enemies; all methods are fair; and all public money is available for partisan purposes. This is unworthy of the political traditions of this country.
When we have a little private moment among our friends at a fundraiser in Sault Ste. Marie, the real story comes out, which is that we want an election so that we can teach Canadians a lesson. That is not how I understand democracy. That is not how this party understands democracy.
We actually receive lessons from the public. We do not give them to the public. We do not use an election to teach left-wing judges a lesson. We do not use elections to teach women who help other women through the cycle of domestic abuse a lesson. We want to use elections to bring Canadians together, to rouse them to a higher purpose.
This kind of approach to politics will weaken and divide our country. It goes beyond that. There is a cynicism about politics which they cultivate through the ways in which they neglect and ignore their own promises. There is an indifference to their own promises, which is astounding.
The Prime Minister of Canada lives in an eternal present where he cannot remember what he promised to Canadians the day before and cannot remember what he will promise the day after. Income trusts: “I can't remember I ever made that promise”. Appointment of senators: “I can't remember I ever promised to reform the institution”. He cannot remember that he promised there would be no tax increases.
This party has discovered upon looking closely that the Conservatives have hidden a payroll tax of $13 billion in the weeds, and they do not have the guts to stand up and tell Canadians that is what they are doing.
We deserve better. We deserve a compassionate, creative, collaborative government that unites Canadians; one that does not divide them. A government that invites Quebeckers and francophones from across the country to be part of the process; a government that will govern instead of dividing Canadians with partisan games.
We are looking for a government that believes in telling Canadians the truth, a government that believes that growth does not just happen with a market miracle. It requires the focused strategic guidance of a compassionate and creative government.
We believe we are looking for a government that actually thinks it can be a leader, not a follower, in the great drama, the great challenge of global climate change. We are looking for a government that believes in the compassion and creativity of Canadians and wants to stand with them, not against them, and build a great country together. We do not have this government now and we cannot pretend any longer that we do.
Therefore we will stand up in the House and we will support the Canadians who have been abandoned by the government. We will do our job even if it does not.
Hon. John Baird (Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, this Conservative government has been in office for almost four years. This is the first time in four years that any opposition party has come forward with a motion of non-confidence. I think that speaks volumes to the quality of government and the leadership of the Prime Minister and his administration.
We are going through a global economic downturn, one that did not start in Canada but has certainly been felt here. In fact, Canada was the last major industrialized country to feel the full effects of this downturn and this government is committed to ensuring that Canada is the first major industrialized country to get out of these hard times.
Canadians in every region of this country from coast to coast to coast, east and west, north and south, on farms and in big cities are concerned. They are concerned about their families. They are concerned about their future and they are concerned about their finances.
My constituents in Ottawa West—Nepean want a government and a Parliament that will focus on the economy, jobs and the concerns of people. They want a government that at the end of the day is willing to put politics aside and work together in the best interests of this country. There is a lot of wisdom there.
I have been involved in politics and government for some 25 years. This past January, I saw something rather extraordinary. I saw two people, the Prime Minister and the Premier of Ontario, set a new tone and a new leadership of working together to put aside Conservative and Liberal politics and do what is in the national interest. My constituents not only expect that but demand that. The relationship between the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada is quite strong.
I should say at the outset that I will be sharing my time with the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
In my 25 years in politics and government, the relationship between the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario is at its best. It is at a high watermark and that is getting real results for the people and economy of the province of Ontario.
For the first time in a long time, people in Ontario are being treated fairly. When the member for Toronto Centre was the premier of Ontario in an NDP government, when Mike Harris was the leader of a Conservative government and now with Dalton McGuinty as the leader of a Liberal government, we have seen successive premiers call for greater fairness. Representing 38% of the population of this great country, Ontario was having a tough time and deserved 38% of the infrastructure dollars in this country. The leadership of this Prime Minister and this government has finally delivered that.
The two leaders are working well. The two ministers of finance are working well and the two infrastructure ministers are working well. Our officials at both the federal and provincial levels are working well and big things are happening in the province of Ontario with respect to tackling this global economic downturn.
I look at the relationship between the city of Ottawa, my hometown, which has a councillor with a background in the NDP, councillors with backgrounds in the Liberal Party and councillors with backgrounds in the Conservative Party. They are all working constructively with the province and the federal government to get things done. We are all in the same boat. We all have an oar in the water and we are all rowing together. That is what people expect.
In my constituency, we are tackling water quality. The Ottawa River has been the scene of a number of dumpings of what is essentially raw effluent into the river and all three levels of government have come together, making a $100 million investment to clean up the water. That is something that is a real priority for my constituents and for people throughout the entire region.
We are coming together to build a new convention centre in Ottawa. This $150 million to $160 million project is underway now. It has created 300 jobs. When it is completed, we will see a huge boost to the tourism sector, a huge boost to the hospitality sector, a huge boost to hotels and other attractions, to retail and restaurants. That will be a huge job creator and benefit to our community long after this economic downturn is over.
We are seeing investments in the city of Ottawa in public transit, which is reducing congestion, which will help increase the quality of life of everyone in the region. This will lead to better air quality and assist in the fight against climate change. There are two great examples: the realignment of the Baseline station and important work in south Nepean.
This is not just alone happening in Ottawa.
I want to single out the member for Essex, who has provided great leadership not just in his own riding, but in Windsor. Windsor is facing some very difficult economic times. Employment in that region is perhaps the highest in the country. The member for Essex has worked very hard, taking on a regional leadership role. Windsor is not a hot bed of Conservative Party support.
Let us look at what the mayor of Windsor said:
|| When you compare this (Conservative) government to the previous government, these guys don't want to just talk about it -- they want to get it done
That is good news. That is not just the case in Windsor.
Let us look at York region where the mayor of King Township Margaret Black said:
|| We really appreciate your dedication and hard work in making this dream become a reality for our township. This project is a great example of federal, provincial and municipal governments working together to enhance community life by developing a facility that can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Mayor Black is in fact a Liberal candidate. She has put aside politics and is working with this government, but we do not see that from across the floor in this chamber.
Much has been said about the equality of the distribution of these funds. The member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley spoke earlier. A $137 million federal investment was made into northwestern British Columbia to put more communities on the grid, remove dirty diesel, so that more clean hydroelectricity could be made available to those communities, assist in economic development and job creation in the years ahead.
It did not matter who represented that riding. It mattered that there was a need and that a benefit could be made for the long haul. The NDP member for Edmonton—Strathcona said the following: “To tell you the truth, I've noticed that I am attracting a lot of money to my riding”.
In a moment of honesty, one member of the Liberal caucus, the member for Kings—Hants, talking about infrastructure fairness said, “If you actually look at it more broadly, it's more evenly dispersed”. I agree with him.
One Liberal MPP in my home province said:
|| I'm telling you, I get a lot more from my Conservative seatmate than I got from the Liberal MP who had the seat before...These are not just 'Conservative' ridings, they are 'Liberal' ridings, too.
They are Canadian ridings, and they are Canadians who need a boost for job creation.
Kamloops News just today said that the Liberal member for Parkdale--High Park admitted some of his figures are ambiguous”. That is a first step.
We are seeing work in Atlantic Canada. We are working constructively with all the provinces of different political stripes. New Brunswick has a Liberal government. Shawn Graham is a good premier. Listen to what his spokesman said just today in the Telegraph Journal:
|| When it comes to those projects that involve the federal infrastructure stimulus monies, the federal criteria are that the project be shovel-ready and completed within a certain time frame.
That was the criteria we were looking at and geography did not play into it at all. There is an example where the Prime Minister has exercised great leadership working with a Liberal premier in the Maritimes.
Listen to what representatives of municipalities are saying because they are important partners. Basil Stewart, the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said last June, “Things are starting to move fairly quickly. We're pleased about that”.
Peter Hume, the president of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, said, “I want to congratulate you and your ministers and your officials for working together, working collaboratively to bring much needed investment and economic stimulus to communities in every part of Ontario”.
I had the occasion to visit Sault Ste. Marie, not a government riding again, where the Prime Minister made a $47 million commitment for a new border plaza, something that is incredibly important.
I have worked with the mayor of Toronto, where we are delivering literally hundreds of millions of dollars of new infrastructure projects to assist economic development and job creation there.
The job is not yet done. Canadians, my constituents in Ottawa West--Nepean, do not just expect but are demanding that we work together, address the economy, address jobs, and get the job done, and not play political games like we are seeing from the leader of the Liberal Party today by wanting to force Canada into an early and opportunistic election.
Hon. Josée Verner (Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and Minister for La Francophonie, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I must admit that I am perplexed by the non-confidence motion moved in the House by the official opposition.
Let me get right to the point: our government has the interests of all Canadian families and workers at heart. My colleagues and I are working hard to initiate stimulus projects in all parts of Canada. Unfortunately, the Liberals are only interested in getting in the way by triggering a pointless election that will slow down the implementation of our economic action plan.
In recent months, the Liberals have been obsessed with bringing down the government and triggering an election. Our government has focused on implementing projects throughout the country. While the Liberals have been gunning for a pointless election, we have been working to ensure that Canada emerges from this economic crisis in better shape and stronger than ever.
Our government has invested an unprecedented amount in the economy, infrastructure projects, tourism and culture. The measures implemented mean that Canadians will have more money available when they need it most.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention a number of achievements our government has made in the past year, especially in the Quebec City area, for which I am responsible. The people of Quebec placed their trust in our government, and that is why I proudly defend the investments and efforts we have made since the economic crisis began. We have worked to restore the recognition that the Quebec City area has always deserved. We are listening, and we have taken real, sustainable measures to bolster the regional economy.
By 2011, Quebec will have received $4.5 billion in infrastructure funding thanks to our economic action plan. This money will go toward highway and water system improvements, among other projects. Jobs have been and will be created. Quebec will be able to proudly meet the challenges of tomorrow.
On September 13, I had the pleasure to announce, with the Province of Quebec, nearly $303 million in infrastructure stimulus funding for 92 new projects. This funding includes just over $80 million for a group of 63 Quebec municipalities under the federal-provincial agreement on the joint pipeline renewal program, known as PRECO. It also includes more than $125 million, with the municipality's contribution, for projects in the Quebec City area.
In addition, in my riding, nearly $10 million in funding has been announced jointly with the province and the City of Ancienne-Lorette to build a multi-generational training centre in that city.
Our government has invested in large-scale infrastructure projects, which have not only stimulated the local economy, but will help the Quebec City area maintain its position as a world leader in a number of fields.
The real action we have taken has succeeded in preserving existing jobs and creating new ones, which in turn is helping the economy grow and prosper. Our government's achievements include a number of major investments.
In culture, the marquee tourism events program has granted $2.7 million to the Quebec City summer festival, which is so successful each year that it is the envy of other cities. The Grand Rire de Québec comedy festival, a local tourist event that is not to be missed, has received nearly $1 million. The New France festival has received $500,000. Lastly, the circus school in Limoilou will receive an investment of $3.2 million.
I am especially proud of our government's investments in research. We recently reached an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline through which the federal government is investing $40 million in facilities in Sainte Foy. These facilities will become even more effective and future vaccines will be produced there, not only for Quebeckers and Canadians, but also for people all over the world.
At Laval University, our government is investing in knowledge infrastructure to the tune of $19 million, in addition to the $12 million earmarked for the National Optics Institute. And the CEGEPs in the Quebec City area are getting close to $4 million.
Our government is a major contributor to the revitalization of the D'Estimauville sector with an $88 million investment in a federal building construction project.
More than $4 million has been invested in PRECO for water-related infrastructure in the Quebec City area in order to provide residents with modern infrastructure.
The Quebec City exhibition centre will get more than $10 million through the Building Canada program.
As far as sports are concerned, the Prime Minister announced at Laval University that three soccer pitches and the astroturf on the football field would be rehabilitated and more seating would be added. He also announced that a new scoreboard would be installed. These investments will allow Laval to proudly welcome the Vanier Cup for the next two years.
These are some examples of the work our government is doing. We are not sitting around twiddling our thumbs. On the contrary, our government has taken additional measures to help Canadians.
For instance, Bill C-50 will provide between 5 and 20 additional weeks of employment insurance benefits to long-tenured workers to help them financially while they look for new work.
We have also proposed a home renovation tax credit to encourage Canadian homeowners to invest in projects that will inject money into their local economy, thereby creating jobs.
In fact, two days ago, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore voted against the measures we proposed to help those most affected by the economic crisis. His only goal was to trigger a needless election.
But our government will not abandon Canadians during a global economic crisis. On the contrary, our government is proposing innovative measures to help those Canadians who just want to work.
Although the Liberals seem to have no interest in the economic recovery, our government has made the economy its priority. All indicators show that we are on the right track.
Canada's economic action plan produces results. It stimulates the economy. It protects and creates jobs.
We are making real progress, but there is more work to be done. Our government needs to stay focused and to continue to implement Canada's economic action plan.
We are creating jobs, we are offering tax breaks, and we are helping people who are experiencing economic difficulties. We are helping Canadians build a better future.
Our government is determined to continue on this path. Doing anything else would be unwise and irresponsible. Unfortunately, the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberals are trying to force a needless and opportunistic election. They want an election that is not in the best interest of the country. They want an election that would jeopardize Canada's economic recovery.
Mr. Pierre Paquette (Joliette, BQ):
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that 20 minutes is not much time to put the Conservative government on trial for mismanagement. I will have to content myself with summarizing the grievances that we and the entire Quebec nation have against this government. I am certain that when the next election is held, Quebeckers will return a majority of Bloc members to this House, as they did in 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004 and 2006.
The motion is simple, and I will read it for the people who are watching: “That this House has lost confidence in the government.” I would add that the Bloc's position is also simple. We no longer have confidence in this Conservative government and therefore will vote in favour of the Liberal Party non-confidence motion. That goes without saying.
How can we have confidence in a government that, less than a year ago, said there would be no recession in Canada, when the whole world was going through a major financial crisis and signs of an economic slowdown were not only on the horizon, but already in evidence to the south of us?
How could Canada have avoided this economic slowdown, knowing that our main trading partner, the United States, which accounts for 85% of our exports, was already going through an economic slowdown? The government tried to deceive the people, but they could not fool Quebeckers, which is why, once again, as I mentioned earlier, Quebec rejected the Conservative Party and returned a majority of Bloc Québécois members to this House.
How can we have confidence in a party that, not even a year ago—if memory serves it was on November 24, 2008—tabled an economic statement that should have addressed the economic crisis that was already obvious, not only around the world, but in Canada as well?
The government tabled an economic statement that was actually an ideological statement that sparked a major political crisis in this House. The government attacked democracy by trying to abolish political party financing; it attacked women's rights by trying to prohibit them from going to court on pay equity issues; and it attacked federal employees' bargaining rights.
So how can we have confidence in a government that should have assumed its responsibilities long before November 24? It refused to do so on November 24, 2008, and instead preferred to flex its muscles to try to impress the opposition parties, but instead was caught out at its own game. That forced the Prime Minister to go see the Governor General and ask that the House be prorogued, thereby delaying all the measures that could have been taken to stimulate the economy.
I would remind the House that, long before November 24, the Bloc Québécois had proposed a series of measures with that goal in mind. Furthermore, we reiterated our proposals in April, but this government ignored the Bloc Québécois' proposals every time. As some government members have said several times, the Liberal Party did not contribute many proposals. In fact, they brought none forward, which is a little worrisome for a party that is supposed to be the official opposition.
How can we have confidence in a party whose economic, social, environmental and cultural choices are diametrically opposed to the values and interests of the Quebec nation? How can we have confidence in that party? Of course that is impossible, not only for the Bloc Québécois, but for the entire Quebec nation and all Quebeckers, and this is evident in the polls we have seen in recent months.
I would like to come back to exactly how these economic, social, environmental and cultural choices go against the interests of Quebec and against the interests and values of the Quebec nation. I hope I have enough time to go through the entire spectrum of Conservative horrors.
Consider the economic question. I am referring to the so-called economic action plan, or the third report. I would point out that that report is completely confusing and, upon reading it, the reader quickly realizes that the numbers presented do not represent what was really spent. The numbers are promises.
We are being told 90%. I would note that it was 80% in June. It is still somewhat disturbing that the increase has been only 10 percentage points, but again, that absolutely does not reflect the reality of the actual commitments made by the federal government regarding the measures that were announced, which were in fact totally inadequate and inequitable for Quebec.
That also explains why the Bloc Québécois opposed the budget speech.
I am looking at page 127 of this third report to Canadians. At the top, under the heading “Support for Industries”, and more specifically “Support for the auto sector”, in the column “2009-2010 Stimulus Value”, the amount shown is $9.718 billion. I note that from what we see in the “Stimulus Committed” column, 100% of the funds have been committed in the case of support for the auto sector. Again, that does not mean a lot, but I am reading what the Minister of Finance has presented to us.
Now let us look at forestry, an industry that has been in crisis since 2005, well before the global economic slowdown and the effects it has had on the economy of Quebec and Canada. There is not even any mention of support, which the industry has been calling for since 2005, and which it needs. It needed support yesterday, it needs it today, and if things continue the way they are it will not need it tomorrow because there will no longer be a forestry industry in Quebec. In terms of stimulus value, under “Forestry marketing and innovation”, we see $70 million for the whole of Canada, or about $25 million for Quebec, and we see that not all of the money has been committed.
This inequity is the perfect illustration of the fact that the Conservative government is acting in Canada’s interests at the expense of Quebec’s. We have absolutely nothing against support being given to the auto industry, which is concentrated in Ontario. That industry needs support. What we do not understand is why the government can commit nearly $10 billion to support the auto industry, which is concentrated in Ontario, and cannot commit an equivalent amount for the forestry industry, which is extremely important to Quebec.
I will give one small illustration. That $10 billion is going to help save 30,000 jobs in the auto industry, which is concentrated in southern Ontario. Again, we agree with that. The forestry industry in Quebec represents 88,000 jobs, and barely $28 million has been spent, $100 million for the whole of Canada. By way of comparison, for each job saved in the auto industry, the Conservative government is prepared to spend $325,000, or nearly a half-million dollars per job, while for the forestry industry we have barely $318 per job that could be saved. Again, this support is not only inequitable, it is inadequate and ineffective.
What the forestry industry needs are loan guarantees and loans, because it is currently facing liquidity problems, and a number of companies will not survive the crisis if the Conservative government does not wake up and release funds providing some liquidity for this industry. This is one illustration of the fact that the Conservatives have abandoned Quebec. I point out once again that we have no problem with the assistance given the Ontario sector.
The Bloc has put forward proposals. The industry too has submitted proposals to the government, as have the unions and municipal representatives. Here are a few examples. A proposal was made to establish a credit facility to allow forestry companies to obtain loans and loan guarantees so they might get the funding they need to deal with the crisis. As I mentioned, a number have gone bankrupt, such as AbitibiBowater, or are verging on bankruptcy, such as Tembec. A refundable tax credit for investment was proposed to help businesses modernize. There is a tax credit for research and development already, but it is not refundable. When there are no profits, there is no benefit from such a measure. If the credit were refundable, a company such as Tembec, which invests nearly $80 million in research and development annually, could be refunded $80 million on its investment through a tax credit.
I would like to point out that, each time I hear the Conservative MPs from Quebec, I feel for them, but I feel more for the people who put their trust in them. They say they have lowered taxes on profits. That is of no help to the sectors in difficulty. When there are no profits, there are no taxes to be paid on profits. So this is what the Conservative government has put in place—reductions in taxes that have benefited primarily the oil companies, the companies operating in the tar sands. We have not been fooled by what has gone on in the past months and years.
We also sought $50 million to fund research on biofuels from forestry waste. The aim is to reduce Quebec's dependence on petroleum.
This is an industrial strategy the Bloc formulated nearly two years ago now. We also introduced a bill, which, just as the Government of Quebec wants to do—a coalition has been established in Quebec—aims to promote the use of wood in the construction or renovation of public buildings. Finally, we called for the establishment of a real carbon exchange in Montreal—there is one, as we know—but without absolute reduction targets, without 1990 as the reference year and without a territorial approach, the exchange will never get off the ground.
More than just the forestry industry in Quebec has been ignored by the Conservative government. There is also the aerospace industry, which is extremely important and an industry of the future for Quebec. This very morning, we learned, unfortunately, that Pratt & Whitney will be laying off 410 people. This illustrates the difficulties in this sector. Bombardier too had to lay employees off. The government totally ignored the problems of the aerospace sector, as if they did not exist. They probably do not exist in the minds of the Conservatives, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance because this sector is concentrated in the greater Montreal area. If it exists in Quebec, it must not really exist in the rest of Canada.
I believe that, because we pay taxes to Ottawa, we are entitled to industrial policies that meet the needs of our sectors of the future, such as aerospace. The government should immediately develop a real aerospace policy. The Bloc Québécois will continue to insist on this. My colleagues, and especially the hon. members for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher and Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, will continue to demand an industrial policy on aerospace.
There were also the research cuts, which did a lot of harm to Quebec. We saw it once again this morning. There was an announcement that the Minister of State (Science and Technology) had tried to intervene and induce a scientific research council not to support a conference because the minister and the government thought it did not have the right ideology.
I also remember the very restrictive program they instituted in the last budget for business research grants. Later I will read a few excerpts from a column by Alain Dubuc, who is far from being a sovereignist or progressive, but who still realizes we have a government that is totally regressive in the area of research and development. These cuts to research and development and these ideological approaches have done great harm to a number of research sectors in Quebec. I am thinking, for example, of Abitibi—Témiscamingue or the Université du Québec à Rimouski, which had to abandon its research programs.
This region also suffered cuts to the Coriolis II, the only university oceanographic research ship in Rimouski. I might add in passing that this Conservative government has virtually no regard for the Lower St. Lawrence region. It has no regard as well for its own members and ministers. We even had cuts to the Mont-Mégantic Observatory, in the riding of the Minister of Public Works, who found out about them in the newspapers. That goes to show how much influence he has in his caucus.
The Conservative government has been negligent and unfair in such future sectors as research, aeronautics and other sectors that are important for the regions of Quebec, such as the forestry sector, including pulp and paper. The government deserves to be punished.
In regard to the research issue, Alain Dubuc wrote the following in La Presse, “It is so stupid I could laugh. It is as if the [Conservative] government were showing off a caricature of itself. Unfortunately, though, it is very serious. It is the same logic, the same obscurantism, the same inability to understand how advanced societies develop that led it to cut the grants to artists for international tours”. That was Alain Dubuc writing in La Presse, a paper that is far from sovereignist, who said this because it is just common sense.
I have not had a chance to say this yet, but I want to point out that Canada is lagging behind in research and development.
In 2006, Canada spent 1.06% on research and development. The OECD average was 1.56%. We were among the lowest-ranking G8 and G7 countries, behind France, the United States, Japan, Germany and Great Britain. We should not be neglecting this sector. We are already behind. We are the least advanced of all western economies, and this government is making things even worse.
Quebec is not satisfied with these economic choices. Quebec's future economic development is being jeopardized.
There are two other economic issues I want to talk about: public finances and the economy and the environment. Once again, the Conservative government's choices have compromised Quebec's future.
With respect to public finances, the fiscal imbalance still has not been resolved. People in Quebec—including Jean Charest's government, which is anything but sovereignist—are all too aware of this. The Parti Québécois, the ADQ and people in the business community are aware of it too. Everybody knows that even though the health transfers have come through, we are a long way from eliminating the fiscal imbalance.
Among other things, Quebec is still waiting for $850 million in post-secondary education transfers just to bring funding levels back to where they were in 1994-95 before Paul Martin unilaterally slashed transfers for post-secondary education and in a number of other sectors.
But it is not enough just to increase transfer payments. We would like that and we supported a Conservative government budget in the past because it included a significant transfer to Quebec. However, to truly resolve the fiscal imbalance we need to negotiate the transfer of a portion of the federal tax base to the Government of Quebec, which was done under Pearson and even in the 1970s when René Lévesque was Premier of Quebec.
There are other problems besides the fiscal imbalance. There is a series of disputes between Ottawa and Quebec. Allow me to name a few because they will make anyone's hair stand on end. The Government of Quebec is looking for money. It is waiting for its due. I am talking about at least $8 billion. There is the $2.6 billion for harmonizing taxes. We know that Quebec was the first jurisdiction to harmonize its sales tax with the GST, as the federal government of the day, under Mr. Mulroney, asked us to do. Our taxes have been harmonized since 1992. We have never been compensated. That represents $2.6 billion. Ontario will be compensated and so will British Columbia, just like the Atlantic provinces were before them. In the economic statement, the Minister of Finance told us that all the other provinces that harmonize their sales tax with the GST will be compensated—except Quebec.
There is the issue of equalization, of course. The Conservative government's Prime Minister and Minister of Finance went back on their promise. Equalization has been capped, which means that Quebec loses out on $1.25 billion a year.
There is the issue of funding for infrastructure, namely $1.3 billion. There is social assistance. By the way, this issue was not mentioned much in the last budget, but we are mentioning it today. A certain number of criteria were changed for transfer payments related to social assistance, which leaves Quebec with a $600 million shortfall. Half a billion dollars is not insignificant in the current economic climate. There is also the matter of $60 million for health transfers and the $850 million I mentioned earlier for post-secondary education.
There is $421 million, dating back to the ice storm in the mid-1990s. That is still unresolved. And that was during the time of the Liberals, who are no better than the Conservatives. I must add $416 million for the Pacte pour l'emploi Plus and $127 million for the income stabilization program, which also dates back to the 1990s when the Liberals were in power. Add to that $284 million for the Canada assistance plan, $53 million for improving northern airports, and $220 million for the CHUM and Sainte-Justine hospitals.
These claims add up to more than $8 billion, and they would be resolved if the federal government respected Quebec. If it were open to negotiating in good faith with Quebec. If it led by example with its so-called open federalism.
That is not the case. The government is being petty, as evidenced yesterday in the Prime Minister's response, when he said that Quebec would be compensated if it did exactly what the others had done and let the federal government collect the QST, even though since 1992, Quebec has collected not only the QST, but also the federal GST.
As I said, I am running out of time. I would have liked to discuss a very important topic, but I am sure that the member for Chambly—Borduas will ask a question about employment insurance, which is a thorn in the side of the Conservative government. There is also the issue of the government's completely outdated notions about the environment.
If I had the unanimous consent of the House, I could take five more minutes to cover these topics and to finish my comments about the Conservative government and its mismanagement. Could you seek the consent of the House? If not, I will conclude.
Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Timmins—James Bay.
It is not every day that we have a motion of confidence in the House, so it obviously is a very serious matter. It is a matter that New Democrats take very seriously. We have had serious debate not only within our caucus but with our constituents. To put forward a motion that the House has lost confidence in the government is something that needs to be looked at very carefully.
If we look at the record of what has happened since the Conservative government was elected in 2006, it will show very clearly that the NDP has been the toughest critics of the Conservative government and its policies, right from day one.
In fact, we never had confidence in the government. We have been very clear that the overall direction it has taken on the economy, social programs, its attacks on workers, women, pay equity and the billions it has given away in corporate tax cuts have been disastrous courses of action. We have been very tough on the government. I think many Canadians have seen the New Democrats as the official opposition, that we were the ones who took on the direction of the government and stated how wrong it was.
While being the toughest critics of the government, we have also always done our very best to make this minority Parliament work. Again, if we look at the record, it will show a number of bills have come forward that have passed the House, that have gained majority support and the actions that have taken place in committees and the studies that have been undertaken have come from New Democrats.
We have all the statistics to show the number of bills we have put forward, whether it is Bill C-311, the climate change accountability bill, or Bill C-304 for a national housing strategy, which historically passed second reading last night. It only took 12 years to get back from the disastrous course that the Liberals took in the 1990s when they trashed and eliminated the great housing programs that Canada had. Look at the EI bills, some of which are now in committee, or our motion that was passed on the need to protect our seniors.
We feel very good about our work and our record in being very tough critics of the government and the direction it has taken. At the same time, we make every effort, more than 100%, to make this Parliament work for Canadians, to get things done. That is what people sent us here to do.
That is a really important point to make today. For two years the official opposition propped up the Conservatives and gave a complete green light to their agenda, whether it was those billions in corporate tax cuts, or the attacks on pay equity and women, or the attacks on the unemployed and on workers' rights. We know there were 79 substantive confidence votes they let slide.
The big question today, which is left hanging in the air, is what did they get for that? We are here now at this point with a confidence motion. After all of that record, what did the Liberals get for supporting the measures of the direction of the government for two years? We have seen the report cards, the government was put on probation, but what did the official opposition actually get?
The Liberals claimed, over and over again, that EI was their top priority. How many times did we hear this in the House? We know that in the summer they walked away from that, and they got nothing for it. All of sudden, they have decided their first priority is an election.
Clearly the New Democrats are more interested in helping the unemployed than we are in provoking an early election that people do not want. That is a very important consideration.
We talk to our constituents. We go back and we find out what people think. We ask if they think this is the right time for an election. People have clearly said that this is not a good time for an election. We have had four elections in five years. People want to see this Parliament work.
I am very proud of the New Democrats. When we came back on September 14 and the Liberals had taken the disastrous course of saying that it would an election at any cost, that they would pull the plug, we saw that as an opportunity to tell the government if it did not want an election, it had to reach out and put something on the table to make it clear that it was willing to work with the opposition parties to produce the things that Canadians needed.
The NDP are pleased to see that, finally, the Conservative government put $1 billion on the table for the EI bill. That just passed second reading in the House and it has now gone to committee. It will be studied there and come back to the House, at which time we will have a final vote. We saw that as a positive first step.
The NDP leader has been very clear with the Conservative government that the NDP does not support its overall direction and we will continue to be the toughest critic on any anti-people measures it takes. If it slams workers or cuts programs, we will continue to be its critic. However, we are prepared to look at individual proposals it brings forward. In fact, we have been very transparent about what the priorities are.
There have been no back room negotiations or deals. It has been the NDP day after day in the House that has put forward political priorities, whether it is reforming the EI system, providing help for pensioners, ensuring that consumers have protection, asking the government to come clean with its record on the HST and stop trying to duck the issue or coming clean with the people of B.C. and tell us when the negotiations started. Both the Liberals and the Conservatives are now trying to run for cover on that one.
We have been very clear that the government needs to be prepared to bring forward other initiatives around EI. The question I raised earlier today with the government was whether it was now prepared to help self-employed workers. This is a very critical question.
I do not know about other members, but when I talk to folks in Vancouver East, the biggest response is from self-employed people who are really hurting because they have no cushion on which to fall. They have no protection during this recession. It is very tough for people who are self-employed, who at one time were doing quite well but in the recession are finding they cannot get the consulting work or contracts. Small businesses are going under, as well as people who are self-employed in other ways. Again, is it prepared to bring forward further changes to the EI system that will help self-employed workers?
New Democrats believe this is a constructive course of action. This is where we need to focus attention instead of playing these political games, like the Liberals now saying it is their way or it is an election.
I heard the Leader of the Opposition state earlier today in his speech, “We use elections to bring people together”. I thought that was very ironic. An election is about accountability for sure, but it is also about ensuring that people do not become weary from dealing with elections and being concerned everyday with what is going on in a recession that it divides people and further turns people off the political system. This is what the leader of the official opposition is now doing.
This election is not about bringing people together. From the Liberal point of view, this election is about serving its own political agenda. We need to call it that and be very clear.
New Democrats are prepared to work in the House and to do it in a genuine way and in good faith. We will take on the government. We will be critical of its policies, but we also want to ensure nothing stands in the way of getting the $1 billion of assistance to people who need it. We think that is a key priority. We want to ensure other measures are brought forward that will help people. That is the priority right now in this recession.
I am glad we are having this debate because it brings everything into the open. New Democrats are very clear that the priority is trying to make Parliament work. As long as that measure exists, we will certainly support it.
We hope other proposals will put on the table by the government that will help the unemployed, seniors and consumers deal with the recession they are facing every day. That is what is really important to people.
Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP):
Madam Speaker, I am always proud to rise in the House to speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay. When I stand in the chamber I am always reminded, whatever the form of debate, that this is the place where the great moments in Canadian history have happened. With respect to the defining debates of our generation, whether it was the debate on capital punishment, and even the debate on the extension of the mission in Kandahar, this is where we come together to debate. That being said, not all the debates are great. Some of them are rather mundane. Some of them are fractious. Parliament and democracy is a messy business, but this is where we come to discuss the various aspects of bringing this country forward.
I cannot think of a moment in recent political history where we have had a motion brought forth by the Liberal Party, or any party, that is using the pretext of creating a parliamentary crisis to set up a sideshow to divert citizens' attention from the rot and collapse of what is happening within the Liberal Party. The party looks like a deflated balloon. The Liberals are telling us that this is the moment when they will come forward, and they have brought forth nine lousy words: to bring down a government and force an election. There is no vision and no plan whatsoever.
Let us get to the point of what this is about. We can talk about the problems of the Conservative government any day; the New Democrats have done that consistently. We have never had confidence in the government, because when they brought forth motions under the guise of stimulus that stripped environmental protection on riverways, we opposed that. We opposed the Conservatives when they used the economic stimulus to strip the rights of women workers to get pay equity. We opposed them when they tried to use the economic stimulus as a cover to gut Kyoto.
However, our friends in the Liberal Party never used their position in opposition to push back or demand changes, because they have a fundamentally different view on power. We could perhaps call it the hyena rule of politics, where they would lie in the long grass waiting for government to stumble and then come in and pick up the spoils. They did not see their role in opposition as pushing back, of proposing, of demanding, alternatives.
That is what we in the New Democratic Party have done. We have pushed the government. We have opposed it. We have also said to bring forward motions in this minority context so something can happen. If that happened, then we have achieved our role as opposition.
We now have a $1 billion on the table to help the unemployed. Will it help everyone? No. We understand clearly in politics that we move incrementally to bring forward progressive change. However, the Liberals are not concerned about the $1 billion for the unemployed. They have never been interested in that. It has always been about getting back to power.
We are seeing a sideshow today, where the Liberals are trying to divert attention from the media, from the spectacle going on in their riding associations, their nomination battles and their backstabbing. They are trying to precipitate a parliamentary crisis.
That would not be so bad if they were serious. It reminds me of when I was a child and my granny would take us to see the wrestling. All the ten-year-old boys would be up there shouting and threatening to take Killer Kowalski in a fight. All it would take was for the Killer to look up and glare at us and we would all go running to our seats. We know that the Liberal Party is terrified of the polls. The member for York West said that 99% of the Liberals do not want an election. I am looking at their ranks. They do not have 99 members. That means that perhaps even the leader is saying, “yes, yes, yes”, but his knees and legs are saying, “no, no, no”.
This is an absurd spectacle, and it has to be framed this way. This party has to grow up and realize that if it is to be a 21st century party involved in participatory democracy, then the members have to start coming forward with some progressive, credible ideas that are based on the principles of parliamentary democracy.
Let us look at this farce that is taking place within the Liberal Party right now. It could be a reality TV show; it could perhaps be a tawdry Graham Greene novel. We have the butler, the would-be contender in Outremont, the butler who worked for the power corporation, the butler who was seen as a threat to the Quebec lieutenant, and the Quebec lieutenant who worked for the Count. But then there was the man in the shadows from Toronto Centre, who is also tied to a power corporation and of course tied to the puppet master, the former prime minister. We have the butler, the Quebec lieutenant, the man in the shadows and the Count.
It reads like some kind of bizarre Graham Greene novel, but what it speaks about is that not one of these players in this Outremont farce ever said that the riding association should be making the decision.
When a party loses power, it has to go back to its grassroots. It has to get revitalized. It has to come back for new ideas. People waited. They waited through five Liberal leaders in five years for these new ideas.
We may say what we want about the former Liberal leader, but he was a man who came to this House and said where he stood. We could disagree with him, but he stood on principles and he did his job. The present Liberal leader has presented us with no vision except that he believes he is fundamentally entitled to power.
We have come to this non-confidence motion: nine measly words. We have waited for this vision. Where is this vision? We have waited for an alternative to the gang of Conservatives, but there is none. There is just a sense of entitlement. They say, “Here is our list. We want power back.” There has been no attempt from this party, at any point, to come forward with a vision other than “trust us”. If there were a vision, we could debate it.
I personally think that the present Liberal leader is profoundly out of touch with average Canadians in his defence of torture, his flag-waving on the Iraq war and the very scurrilous comments he has made in the last few years about Canada's tradition of peacekeeping. He thought we took the easy way out when we were building bridges and schools overseas. That is profoundly out of touch with Canadian values.
I would like the Liberal leader to bring his vision so we could debate it in the House. Perhaps there is another way, but we have seen none of that.
We come back to the motion of today. The government has been on the wrong track for some time. We have tried to push back, but we have had a party in opposition that has sat back and allowed, time after time, the Conservatives to push through key elements of their agenda that progressive Canadians are fundamentally opposed to. We finally now have them at the table saying that they will bring forward some motions. It is not great. It is not the end of the world. It is not going to solve everything, but we finally have them at the table saying they will do something.
The Liberals are saying, “We do not want to talk about that. We want to talk about coming back to power.” We have not seen any credible position or vision from this party. Like the rest of Canadians, we are going to have to sit back and watch Tout le monde en parle to see the next steps in the reality TV show that has become the Liberal Party.
If a leader has a vision, he invigorates his party members and they stand behind him. They do not stab each other in public and try to create regional battles, pitting one city against another. That is not a party that is ready for power.
I would ask my hon. colleagues in the Liberal Party to calm their leader down, to explain that in Canada one has to go with something other than a sense of entitlement. Perhaps we need to say that this party needs to spend a little more time in the political wilderness. It needs to reinvigorate itself a little more, and it needs to spend more time understanding that in the 21st century its grassroots count, new ideas count, that it is not simply a letter of entitlement that allows it to walk in and assume power.
I do not think anybody is in the media gallery today watching this spectacle of the Liberal Party clashing its paper swords. I do not think anybody up front is watching it. They are waiting for us to get back to business, because the business at hand is very serious. We are in the worst economic crisis in a generation. We are on the verge of perhaps the most serious flu pandemic in 20 or 30 years. We are before Copenhagen with a government with no plan to deal with the serious issues of climate change.
Our role as opposition is so important. It is to propose and push the government to action. I would like to see our colleagues in the Liberal Party work with us on how we take the government and make it responsive to the Canadian people. However, there has to be something more to it than suddenly saying to the Canadian people, “We want power. We want it now. We are not going to provide you with any reason of why we want power other than the fact that we are the Liberals.”
That is why they got tossed out in the first place, and that is why their motion is seen as a farce today.
Hon. Ralph Goodale (Wascana, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, there are many reasons why we on this side of the House have lost confidence in the Conservative government. Some of those reasons were outlined earlier today in the speech by the Leader of the Opposition. Others will be advanced by my colleagues through the day. In that regard, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.
For my part I want to focus specifically on the economy, on the government's ongoing economic incompetence and why it simply cannot be trusted. On the Conservative government's watch, nearly half a million full-time Canadian jobs have disappeared. Now, this country is on its way to a multi-year, multi-billion dollar string of Conservative deficits, the biggest in Canadian history. It all goes to questions of competence and trust or the lack thereof.
The Conservatives brought Canada into deficit quite unnecessarily, not because of but before any recession began. When the Liberals turned over the reigns of power in February 2006, Canada's fiscal position was the best since Confederation and at the very top of the G8 group of world leading countries. Our economy had thrived through a decade of balanced budgets and more than 3.5 million net new jobs had been created.
Transfer payments to provinces for health care and other social programs were at an all-time high. Debt and taxes were falling faster than ever before. In fact, the debt ratio had been more than cut in half. Our financial system was strong. Canada's annual surplus was running at about $13 billion per year and over five years federal financial flexibility was projected at close to $100 billion. That is what the government had to work with starting in 2006.
However, by last year, before the recession, most of that financial strength had been frittered away. It was gone because federal spending between 2006 and 2008 ballooned to unprecedented levels. It was up 18%, in other words, twice the rate of inflation before the recession. The tax base was eroded before the recession. And, all previous financial reserves, safeguards that had been put in the federal books to protect against those external nasty surprises that come along, had been eliminated before the recession.
The federal treasury stood exposed like a goalie with no pads, no stick, no face mask and no nothing, just praying that there would be no shots on goal. With the greatest of respect, that is not a competent way to proceed. It was reckless of the government to assume that the economic good times would just keep on rolling indefinitely.
The Conservatives would have been briefed by the Department of Finance that a downturn was virtually inevitable. The country had enjoyed a positive business cycle since 1993. That was the longest unbroken period of economic expansion since World War II. On the law of averages alone, it was due to come to an end. Finance officials would have warned to be prudent.
Furthermore, risks were obviously rising in the United States. The overspending American consumer had long been living beyond his or her means as reflected by massive household debt and massive U.S. budgetary and trade deficits. An unsustainable bubble was persisting in the American housing market, which if and when it collapsed, as it ultimately did, would spell big trouble for Canada.
In those circumstances, finance officials would have advised the government to avoid profligate spending, to safeguard the tax base and to maintain decent reserves in Canada's financial statements to serve as fiscal shock absorbers in the event of that inevitable downturn. However, the Conservatives chose not to follow that advice. In fact, they did the exact opposite. They overspent, eroded the tax base and eliminated the safeguards.
As a consequence, while times were still good last year, the federal government went into the hole by some $6 billion dollars and there was nothing left to cushion the blow when the recession subsequently came along.
Another source of concern about competence and trust flows from the erratic explanations that Canadians have been given about the true state of our economy and Canada's balance sheet. All through last fall, we were told that a recession was unlikely. Indeed, even to ask about the risk of recession was labelled by the Prime Minister as fearmongering or, to use another one of his words, stupid. We were told that there would definitely be no deficit.
In November, the government outlined a plan, not for stimulus but for the opposite, fiscal restraint, and it falsely claimed four more surplus budgets. However, by January that storyline was abandoned. Instead, Canada would now have two years of deficit financing, $34 billion this year and $30 billion next year. Through February, March and April, the government insisted those numbers were absolutely accurate, all on track it claimed.
However, by May the Conservatives' story had changed again. The government had miscalculated it seems by an astounding 48%. The red ink this year would be at least $50 billion, not $34 billion, and the deficit would last for four years, not just two.
This month it changed again: $50 billion became $56 billion and the timeframe stretched from four years to six years. The cumulative damage will be something worse than $170 billion in new debt overall.
Constantly changing stories do not demonstrate competence or inspire trust. Where does that leave us? It leaves us with a government that failed to see a recession was on the way, a government that ignored all of the warnings, a government that squandered Canada's fiscal security before there was a recession, a government that was wilfully blind, still denying the recession even after it arrived, and a government that first tabled a wrong-headed austerity program, not a stimulus plan. It was going in exactly the wrong direction. When it finally and belatedly admitted that a recession was here and that a stimulus plan was necessary, it was slow and clumsy in bringing it forward. Its so-called plan was completely suffocated by Conservative partisanship.
The Conservatives were preoccupied with photo opportunities, with advertising and with claiming credit, but in fact, less than 20% of what they promised has actually been delivered to date. Even their own favourite independent economists predict that by the end of this year they will not get that figure up to 30%.
Meanwhile, 486,000 full time Canadian jobs have been destroyed on the government's watch. It promised 190,000 but it lost 486,000. In the coming year, the government is now promising to find, magically or mystically, 220,000 jobs. However, the Royal bank, the TD Bank, the OECD and every other credible forecaster is predicting another 200,000 jobs will be lost. Unemployment will be near 10%.
What does the wrong-headed government now propose? It proposes a new Conservative tax on jobs. It will increase payroll taxes in the form of higher employment insurance premiums, and not just by a little bit. Higher Conservative EI premiums will become the government's fastest growing source of revenue. Its own numbers prove it. Over the next five years, it will hoist its revenue from EI premiums by a whopping 60%. Just as Canadian employers will be struggling to generate new jobs, the government will hit them and their employees with a new Conservative job killing payroll tax.
Let us think about that. This is the government that said that it would never increase any taxes. The dishonesty is breathtaking.
However, just as the Conservatives increased personal income tax rates and just as they imposed a brutal new tax on income trusts, they have broken their word on taxes time and time again.
It is not just about taxes. It is about equalization, floor-crossers in the cabinet, fixed election dates, appointing more senators than any other prime minister in Canadian history and about demeaning women and minorities as unworthy left-wing fringe groups that need to be taught a lesson.
We have no confidence in the government.
Hon. Marlene Jennings (Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I am proud to participate in this debate on the Liberal motion, a motion of non-confidence in this Conservative government.
When listening to my leader's speech on the non-confidence motion, he said something that really resonated with me and I know that it will really resonate with thousands of Canadians and Quebeckers. He said that in the eyes of the Conservatives, adversaries are enemies and that this Conservative government and all Conservative members currently sitting in this House have demonstrated, over the past four years, that they lack the moral courage to tell Canadians and Quebeckers the truth.
Let me give an example. I was a member of the employment insurance group that tried to work over the summer. This group consisted of two Conservative members—the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, the Liberal critic for human resources and skills development, and myself, the Deputy House Leader. Three weeks passed before we had our technical briefing. We asked for it right away, but the Conservatives told us that the parliamentary secretary was on holidays and that the planned briefing meeting for the two Liberals had to be postponed. There was a third Liberal, our chief political advisor. Thus, we agreed to postpone this meeting to accommodate the Prime Minister's parliamentary secretary.
We finally had our first briefing meeting. We also submitted the Liberal proposal for making employment insurance more equitable, and for ensuring that hundreds of thousands of Canadians who lose their jobs in these tough economic times have access to employment insurance. I am talking about people who have worked and paid their employment insurance premiums. We explained that, according to our calculations, a single national threshold of 360 hours would cost $1.5 billion.
For months, the Conservatives kept saying, here in this House and to the public, that the Liberal proposal of 360 hours was 45 days of work for one year of employment insurance benefits. They kept saying the same thing over and over again knowing that it was not true, but they kept repeating it. We asked the Parliamentary Budget Officer to analyze the government's estimate. The government said that the 360-hour national eligibility threshold for employment insurance benefits would cost Canadians $4 billion. The Parliamentary Budget Officer did an independent analysis both of the Liberal proposal and of the costing and methodology that the Conservatives used. I will quote exactly what the Parliamentary Budget Officer said in his report tabled on September 9, 2009.
|| PBO calculations show that the Government’s own estimate of the static cost of the proposed 360-hour national standard is $1.148 billion (including administrative costs).
I will repeat that. The Parliamentary Budget Officer's calculations show that the government's own estimate of the static cost of the proposed 360-hour national standard is $1.148 billion, including administrative costs. In the opinion of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, the $1.148 billion estimate is a reasonable estimate of the cost of the proposed 360-hour national standard of EI.
Last, the government's total cost estimate in excess of $4 billion presented on August 6 is not consistent with the proposed 360-hour national standard. Why? Because the government included all kinds of people who were not included in the Liberal proposal.
What does the government do? Does the government show moral courage and say, “We got it wrong. We inflated the numbers. We did it in good faith but our numbers were inflated almost four times the actual cost of the Liberal 360-hour proposal”? No, it has continued, in this House, to spout the same mistruth, bogus numbers. It is in black and white.
This is an example of a government and its members who are prepared to say anything in order to advance their own partisan interests.
With respect to the NDP, my goodness, I am someone who grew up admiring the NDP. Some of my heroes are the original founders of the CCF and then of the NDP. We hear the NDP members in their sanctimonious way claim that the reason they are going to prop up this incompetent, self-serving Conservative government is that the EI measures contained in Bill C-50 are so crucial and so important, and will help so many unemployed, that they are ready to put aside the 79 times they said they had no confidence in the government and prop up the government. Is that not interesting?
The government brought down a budget just a few months ago. In that budget, there was over $5 billion in employment insurance measures. The NDP voted against it. The NDP voted for an election and if the NDP had gotten what it wanted, namely an election last spring, there would be hundreds of thousands of unemployed Canadians who would not be benefiting from that $5 billion.
They are settling for measures that will not help seasonal workers, that will not help unemployed workers who work in industries where there are periodic layoffs, that will not help women who have had children and are re-entering the workforce. That does not matter to the NDP.
I would like to hear what the NDP members are going to say to those hundreds of thousands of workers who do not benefit from the measures in Bill C-50. How are they going to explain that they are now prepared to prop up the Conservative government knowing that the government does not tell the truth, knowing that the government fudges the numbers, knowing that the government puts out bogus numbers to hoodwink Canadians? How are they going to explain that?
How do the Conservatives explain that they are prepared, day after day, to repeat the same untruths?
Hon. Greg Thompson (Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC):
Madam Speaker, I am going to attempt to lower the temperature. We will get back on track in terms of our debate and hopefully it will be an uninterrupted few minutes.
Before I begin, I want to inform you, Madam Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Yellowhead or possibly the Minister of Health. The minister is not in the House yet, but the member for Yellowhead is prepared to proceed if the Minister of Health does not arrive in time.
I want to begin by speaking about yesterday in the province of New Brunswick. I am going to digress a little bit, but yesterday was a historic day in New Brunswick. As members from New Brunswick know, we installed a new lieutenant governor in the province. It was a great event because we now have the first aboriginal lieutenant governor in the province of New Brunswick in our proud 225 year history. As everyone knows, that person is Graydon Nicholas.
It was an honour to be there yesterday with all those others who were gathered for this historic event. As many of us know, Mr. Nicholas is a man of great character. Those of us from New Brunswick who know him will say as much. He is a man of great intellect and humility, and that showed yesterday in his speech before the gathered audience. Madam Speaker, as you well know, the premier was there.
One of the reasons why I wanted to mention this event is simply because being there and giving a speech on behalf of the Government of Canada during that ceremony made it one of the greatest days in my political life, to be very honest. It was a very generous day and the generosity of New Brunswickers really showed. It was a historic day for New Brunswick and a historic day, in a sense, for me. I was very honoured to give that speech on behalf of the Government of Canada.
We are in a minority Parliament and surprises happen in a minority Parliament. It was made possible only because two of my colleagues on the other side of the House looked upon this event as something that they wanted to attend. They wanted to be there and allowed me to pair with them, which allowed me to be there, very honestly. Otherwise, I would not have been there. I want to identify those two members of Parliament: the Liberal member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe and the NDP member for Acadie—Bathurst.
All three of us were very honoured to be there. That is the type of cooperation that makes this place work. That is the type of cooperation that we expect across the country with our provincial partners to allow our stimulus package to work. We are not in this alone. We are in this with the municipalities and the provinces. The only ones who are not with us are those people over there. I cannot understand that. It just does not make any sense. As they say down south, it does not make a lick of sense, and it does not.
Let me go through some of what has been said by one of our strongest critics over there, the member for Parkdale—High Park. He is trying to make a fight out of the money that has gone to my home province of New Brunswick, suggesting that it was not a fair distribution of money. That is where we really take exception to what he is saying. He has implied, for example, that our government in the province of New Brunswick, again partnering with the province of New Brunswick, was wrong to invest a combined $46.8 million in the Port of Belledune.
One only has to be a resident of New Brunswick, regardless of living in the north or south, to realize the potential of this port. What would be wrong with this investment? There is nothing wrong with it. The only reason he takes exception to it is because he says that it is in a Conservative riding.
The artificial political boundary that exists in and around Belledune and Bathurst, and the member forAcadie—Bathurst will say this, is the result of the Liberal gerrymandering back a number of years ago to try to create these boundaries in favour of their candidates versus those from some other party.
If they go talk to the member for Acadie—Bathurst, who is an NDP member of Parliament, he will say, without a doubt, that he is one of the biggest supporters of this project, because that is the project that is important to him.
Talk to Rayburn Doucette, a former cabinet minister in the Province of New Brunswick, a Liberal cabinet minister. This is the most important project in his life as manager of that port. More importantly, talk to the premier of the province of New Brunswick who said that this is a transformational project in northern New Brunswick.
We did it for the right reasons. We did it for the people of the province of New Brunswick. This member of Parliament is from the big city of Toronto, and there is nothing wrong with big cities, but I do not think he understands New Brunswick and how we work together to get things done. I am not sure how he does it in his political world, but we work together to get things done in New Brunswick. That is just one example.
I was in the House when the Leader of the Opposition spoke this morning. This is important. This is where the boys and girls on the other side of the aisle might start shouting me down. When the Leader of the Opposition got up today to speak, he started out by asking what we get for this stimulus spending, code word deficit spending. What are we getting?
I wonder where the Leader of the Opposition has been for the last six months. We know where he has been for the last 35 years. He has been out of the country. I almost believe that for the last six months he has been out of the country. He checked out of the hotel early.
We know what we have been doing. The people of New Brunswick, and I am speaking particularly of New Brunswick in this case, know what we are doing back home. We know what we are doing in Ontario. I will focus mostly on New Brunswick. We can focus on other provinces, which I am sure the member for Nunavut and the member for Yellowhead, depending on which one rises following my speech, will do when they get up to talk.
They go into the nitpicky little things such as criticizing us, for example, for having three environment ministers in four years. Well, those folks over there have had five leaders in five years. They cannot get their act together. There is internal squabbling within the party now, as we well know.
Basically what they are attempting to do now is force Canadians into an election that we do not need and that Canadians do not want. It is that simple. Why do it?
No one can figure it out. Their own members cannot figure it out. They were about 15 bodies short last night for the vote, and they will probably be about 12 to 15 bodies short for a vote tonight. They simply do not have their act together.
We are getting rave reviews across the country and from the world. Basically every think tank, every political party and every government in any other part of the universe is saying we are handling this worldwide recession better than any country they live or work in. In other words, in comparison to those other nations, we are doing the best, full stop, no question about that.
What would Canada gain by having an election? The truth is nothing. We do not need it. We do not want it.
We are going to come into the House tonight and vote against that motion. There will be at least one other party in this House that is going to vote against it, too, because they have an interest in helping the unemployed who do need help. They have an interest in building the economies of these provinces and regions within our country which need that type of help.
The support we are providing is the difference between moving out of a recession or staying in one. If we get mired in the type of recessions that we have seen in the past because of very ill-advised policies, Canada will go nowhere.
We are leading the world on this, and we will lead out of this ahead of all the other countries simply because of the leadership of the Prime Minister, our caucus members, our cabinet ministers and particularly the Minister of Finance.
We are proud of what we are doing. We are just going to continue doing it with the help of the intelligent people on the other side of the House who are prepared to stand in their places tonight and support the Government of Canada.
Hon. Leona Aglukkaq (Minister of Health, CPC):
Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to support our economic action plan and our government's support for the Canadian north. In addition to my health portfolio, I am fortunate to have responsibility as regional minister for the three territories including my home riding of Nunavut. I am proud to work with the Prime Minister who has shown unprecedented commitment to Canada's Arctic. It was my pleasure to host him and our cabinet colleagues in Iqaluit this summer.
Federal support for the territories is at an all-time high and it will continue to grow. For Nunavut this means $1.1 billion in 2009-10, an increase of $125 million from last year and over $286 million since 2005-06. Our economic action plan includes important measures for northerners, building on their strengths and helping them address the challenges that they face. These measures include infrastructure projects such as roads and water and sewer system upgrades across the north; reduction in taxes and freezing of employment insurance rates; actions to stimulate housing construction; improved access to financing and support for businesses; an enhancement to employment insurance, and more funding for skills and training.
In Nunavut alone, we are providing the people and businesses with a tax relief of $13.9 million over the next five years. The new renovation tax credit will provide up to $1,350 per homeowner, which will benefit Nunavut homeowners by up to $1.9 million over the next two years.
Nunavut is also benefiting from targeted investments including $17 million to accelerate the construction of the Pangnirtung small craft harbour; $100 million to support renovation and the construction of new social housing units; a share of the $140 million for northern economic development programs; and a share of $87 million to maintain and upgrade Arctic research facilities.
This list is long, but I would like to focus on a couple of the economic action plan initiatives that are important to me, the first in my regional capacity and the second as Canada's health minister. Our Arctic research infrastructure fund provides $85 million to maintain or upgrade key Arctic research facilities. This funding complements our government's commitment to a world-class high Arctic research station and allows research facilities in the north to be reinvigorated. The program is being implemented by organizations that operate at existing research facilities in the north, and it is providing economic stimulus and creating jobs there.
Let me put on my health minister's hat for a moment. I am proud of our government's commitment to protecting the health and well-being of first nations people and Inuit. A month ago in Winnipeg, it was my great pleasure to announce details of $135 million for new construction and the renovation of health service infrastructure in first nations communities across Canada. This investment means new refurbished health centres and nurses residences for many of the remote and isolated first nations communities that are serviced by Health Canada, and this will provide immediate economic benefit by creating employment opportunities in those areas. This funding supports more than 40 projects involving new construction of health services infrastructure and approximately 230 renovations of existing infrastructure.
Our economic action plan also commits another $305 million over two years to strengthen first nations and Inuit health programs including $240 million to ensure that eligible first nations and Inuit continue to receive non-insured health benefits such as dental, vision care, medical transportation and access to a range of drugs not covered by other programs; and $65 million to ensure 24/7 availability of nursing services in the remote and isolated first nations communities serviced by Health Canada.
There is so much good work under way. Members of the House and all Canadians should be encouraged to take a look at the actionplan.gc.ca website and take stock of the great progress that has been achieved to date. There is so much more for us to take pride in. They should take a look at the project map that is available on the website and click on some of the icons marking projects that are scattered across the north.
In Nunavut, they will see things like construction of the new Taloyoak Hamlet office; funding for scientific and traditional research on polar bears and other wildlife in the region; new laboratories, storage space and research facilities for the sustained Arctic observing network and other scientific initiatives; and more.
In the Northwest Territories they will find details of both our progress on the underground utility corridor repair for the town of Norman Wells, water treatment plant renovations and other investment in research facilities, infrastructure and government buildings in Yellowknife and more.
Let us not forget Yukon, where there is new housing for seniors, more investment in Arctic research infrastructure, projects to enhance the safety and reliability of roads, and again there is more.
All Canadians also want our government and our country to maintain its focus on implementing the economic action plan so they can continue to see the benefits of lower taxes, better infrastructure, improved social housing, continued training for workers and assistance where and when it is needed.
I call on all the members of the House to listen to their constituents and support them and our government in “Staying On Course”, as our latest economic action plan report is titled, in leading Canada out of the recession.
Our government has earned the trust of northerners, like all Canadians, to help lead them through this difficult period in our global economy. Like those south of 60°, northerners do not want another federal election. Like all my colleagues in the House, I heard that loud and clear when travelling throughout Nunavut a few weeks ago, just as I have heard it loud and clear from across the country in recent weeks, as I work with the provinces and territories, first nations and Inuit, the medical community and other stakeholders to prepare for what may come with H1N1 this fall.
An election is the last thing Canadians want or need right now, for so many reasons. The only campaign that Canadians are interested in are immunization campaigns.
I appreciate the opportunity to present this on behalf of the northern territories.
Mr. Jean-Claude D'Amours (Madawaska—Restigouche, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to a motion of non-confidence we have proposed against the Conservative government. It is easy. The matter is clear. Parliament has lost confidence in the Conservative Party. Before we say we have lost confidence, as a matter of principle and to play fair and ensure it has a chance, we offer it the opportunity to show what it is capable of and what it can really do for the people. It cannot say that it will help one group of people and decide not to help another, that it will set one group against another.
At some point, we have to look at the facts. To give them a chance, we look at the facts. We look to see whether they have tried to make things better for the people, not only for those it represents, but for all Canadians.
Before I forget, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vancouver Centre.
First we have to look to see if the government passes the test. Good management of the country's public finances was in place. The Conservatives inherited a $14 billion surplus. Such surpluses were unthinkable in the time of the preceding government, before 1993. That government was a Conservative one as well. The Liberals put the finances in order. They made sure they made the people proud of their government. What happened? The Conservatives presented a budget in the spring of 2009 saying there would be a deficit of $34 billion because of the economic crisis. That does not necessarily mean assistance in the amount of $34 billion to the public. Part of it was due to bad management on their part and then part of it was set aside to help the public. The government and the Minister of Finance are supposed to ensure they deliver the goods and the figures. In March, the figure was $34 billion. Oddly enough, in June the figure had jumped to $50 billion, and in September, it was $56 billion. This is a record deficit for Canada. The first test has been failed.
My second point concerns help to the forestry industry. Forests are the natural wealth of the riding I represent. Most employees there work directly or indirectly in the area of forestry.
What did the Conservatives do to pass the test? In 2005, we, the Liberal government, announced help for the forestry industry in the amount of $1.5 billion, even before the major crisis hit us. It was a preventive measure taken proactively. It was $1.5 billion. Whom was it for? It was for the workers and their families. It was to ensure that, in the event of a crisis—as I mentioned—we could lessen the impact and be ready to move to another stage, as needed.
What did the Conservatives do after their election in January 2006? They totally eliminated the announced $1.5 billion. What else did they do for forestry when it came time to help the industry and the pulp and paper sector? During the crisis with the American government over red liquor and black liquor, what did they do? Absolutely nothing. They set up rules and conditions few paper companies could meet. If they could not meet them, it meant that employees could not work and families could not get the help they needed. In terms of the forestry industry, the government has failed.
As for employment insurance, that is an issue that I have been working on since I was elected in 2004 to ensure that the people I represent, and those represented by other members of Parliament, have a fair chance of getting the help they need to ensure that their families have food on the table, enough money to pay the power bill to heat their houses, the rent, the mortgage and the car payments if they live in a rural community so that they can get themselves to work once they find new jobs.
The Conservatives allowed the system to degenerate. People had to wait up to 55 days to receive their first employment insurance cheques, their cheques for one week's worth of benefits. Imagine a family getting no help from the federal government for two months, help that they paid for when they contributed to the employment insurance fund. When it comes to employment insurance, the Conservative government failed the test.
Now the Conservatives are telling us that they are going to come up with new rules, a new employment insurance system. With whose help? With the complicity of the NDP. When the Conservative government gives us its new definition of employment insurance and tries to convince us that it will benefit all Canadians, the important thing is to figure out who it will really help. Who will be entitled to benefits under the new system?
I want to talk first about the comments the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalismmade last Monday, when she said the people who will get employment insurance benefits are those who deserve them.
The people who deserve these benefits are all the workers who paid into employment insurance. In the eyes of the parliamentary secretary and her government, however, seasonal workers, people in the tourism industry, in construction, in roads, in the fisheries, in forestry, and so forth are not entitled to any additional weeks.
Why did the Conservative government turn its back on these people? Why did it not give everyone the tools that are needed?
Long-tenured workers can be just as much seasonal workers as factory workers. Seasonal workers may have worked 10, 15, 20, 25 or 30 years not just in the same industry but for the same company. They are long-tenured, but they are not going to get the help they need. Why do the Conservatives decide who will be helped and who will not? The Conservative government was a failure here. It flunked the test.
If we look at the entire economy and all our economic development, it is terrible to see how many companies all over the country have had to shut down. The workers in these companies lost their jobs—people who were the bread winners for their families. At first I told myself this happens to other people. We thought we were fortunate in Madawaska—Restigouche, but all of a sudden, we too were caught up. There were companies like Shermag, Fraser, AbitibiBowater, Atlantic Yarns, WHK Woven Labels Ltd. and so forth, just to mention a few of the names.
When it came to economic development, the Conservative government did nothing at all for these companies. It did nothing to help the workers in these plants. It did nothing at all for the families of these workers. If we look at what was actually done for economic development and assistance for industry, the Conservative government was simply a failure. It flunked the test.
I know I am quickly running out of time. Looking at just these few things, how can we have confidence in the Conservative government who said that people from the Atlantic region are defeatist? How can we still have confidence in a government that was given a chance to provide some rules, justice for the most vulnerable, and a system to get us out of the crisis? Instead of that, they did only one thing: fail.
You indicate I have one minute left. I still want to mention economic development and infrastructure.
It is all very well to announce infrastructure projects all over the country, but when Conservative members come to make announcements in a town and two months later no agreement has been received duly signed by the government to issue a call for tenders, it is terrible. It means that not one person can go to work because there is the two-month wait to receive the government documents and then there is the engineering assessment and the call for tenders. We are already in October, for heaven’s sake.
Winter is around the corner. There will certainly not be any work done on water and sewer infrastructure in November, December, January or February. That is only one example. The government has obviously failed as well when it comes to infrastructure. For that reason, it must—
Hon. Hedy Fry (Vancouver Centre, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to this important motion, a motion with which I agree.
This has been probably the worst economic depression in Canada since the Great Depression. Many young people have lost their jobs. Some 1.6 million Canadians have no jobs and half of them have no access to any kind of unemployment benefits. We are facing a recession. We have been told by the Minister of Finance that the deficit is $56 billion and the Parliamentary Budget Officer has said that it could be over $125 billion within the next five years. We are living in a very bad time. Jobs are being lost. Many important businesses in the manufacturing and forestry sectors are facing a kind of recession from which they will never recover.
It was in that environment the Liberal opposition decided that we would support the Conservative government when it came out, kicking and screaming, with an economic stimulus package in January. While we did not think the package was perfect, we supported it, albeit reluctantly. We had hoped it would provide the stimulus needed for jobs and that it would assist Canadian businesses, workers and their families in these desperate times.
Before even seeing the stimulus package, the New Democratic Party decided to vote against it, and it did so 79 times in six months. How quickly those members cast aside their principles this week.
We gave the Conservative government three chances. We put it on probation in March, June and September to see whether or not its stimulus package would provide results, whether it would work, whether the money would be out there for Canadians, and whether it would meet the desired outcome of jobs and economic stability.
The Liberal opposition has, after that period of time, lost confidence in the present government on many counts, but I will only mention four. The first one is the broken promises by the government. The second one is the government's continual misrepresentation of facts to Canadians. The third one is the government's lack of fiscal responsibility, accountability and its plain incompetence. The fourth one is the government's failing its citizens by picking and choosing which are worthy of its support.
Let me speak about broken promises.
About 114,000 unemployed construction workers have been waiting since February for infrastructure money to flow. Saying that the wheels of government move very slowly is not a good answer. It is rather cavalier. Families cannot hang on for six months without paying their rent, without having any access to food and clothing for their children. They are finding it hard to make ends meet.
Construction work is seasonal and many of the workers are not eligible for unemployment benefits. Many are on welfare. The majority of workers in this country do not wish to go on welfare. Welfare rates have doubled in this country. People want to work.
The government vowed never to raise taxes. That is another broken promise. Last week there was a stealthy little grab of $13 billion in payroll taxes. That was a cruel thing to do. Small and medium size businesses actually create 80% of the jobs in this country and they are having a difficult time with credit. Retail sales are down. Many people are losing their jobs. The domino effect of lower sales and not supporting small and medium size businesses is high. To add a payroll tax at this point in time is cruel. It certainly will not help to create jobs.
Another broken promise involves the pine beetle and the fires in B.C. In 2006, $200 million was promised and $200 million was promised in 2007, but none of that money has flowed to any of the communities. In fact, they have only seen $80 million of it. Everyone predicted the raging forest fires. Money was needed for research for new employment opportunities and for dealing with the fires.
The government also broke its promise to aboriginal people. Not too long ago there was a moving apology in the House to the aboriginal people where the government across the way cried tears of apology. Today we see that the health, education and housing of aboriginal people has worsened.
The second thing concerns the misrepresentation of facts. The Minister of Finance reportedly said, “We cannot ask Canadians to tighten their belts during tougher times without looking in the mirror”.
In December 2008, the Minister of Finance said that there was a surplus. Earlier this year, he said that there was a paper recession only, then that there was a $34 billion shortfall, and then that there is a $56 billion deficit. As I said earlier, the Parliamentary Budget Officer is predicting a $156 billion deficit over the next five years. That is the first misrepresentation of facts.
The second misrepresentation of facts is brazenly taking credit for the Canadian banking system being so stable when the government knows who made it so.
I also want to talk about misspending. The Privy Council Office, which serves the Prime Minister, spent an extra $20 million this year. The government spent $84.1 million in advertising this year. We saw that the federal cabinet expansion in the fall cost taxpayers another $3.9 million in salaries for ministers and their staff. The Privy Council has said that the professional policy advisors for the Prime Minister and ministers will cost $124 million this year. We have a government that promised to tighten its belt and a finance minister who said that the government was directing government ministers and deputy ministers from every department and agency of the government to reign in their spending. This is unacceptable. Canadians are tightening their belts. They are doing without but the government does not know how to do that.
Since it came in, the government has spent 30% more than any other government in the history of this country. That is extremely unacceptable, irresponsible and lacking in accountability. It also shows incompetence and mismanagement of fiscal affairs.
Another case of unaccountability, mismanagement and incompetence that I want to talk about is H1N1. When the Department of Health sent body bags to the aboriginal communities, which, because of overcrowding, poor housing and poor water, had high incidents of H1N1, the minister said that she would investigate it. The minister is supposed to know what is going on in her department. Nothing should go out of her department unless she is briefed first and accepts it. To investigate it after the fact is unacceptable. The minister did not know what was going on and to say that she was not going to accept responsibility and investigate what was going on is a joke.
Finally, I have one last piece. The government has been failing citizens by picking and choosing who are worthy. Bill C-50, which was just recently introduced in the House, is a fine example of that. Seventy-two percent of single parent Canadians cannot afford to miss a paycheque. We were just told this by the Canadian Payroll Association. Many people are two paycheques away from bankruptcy. Seventy percent of those Canadians are in the age group of under 36. These are the people with the lowest wages because they are at the beginning of their careers. These are the people with very small children. These are the people who just bought a house and are facing a huge mortgage. These are the people who will be laid off first and yet this bill does nothing for them. It does not even recognize their plight.
The bill also said that it was for long-tenured workers. Forestry workers will not benefit from the bill. In British Columbia, where the forestry sector has been going down, people have been losing their jobs on and off for the last four to five years. They do not qualify for employment insurance because they have been collecting unemployment insurance over the last four years. People need to have been paying 30% of the maximum premiums and been working for 12 to 15 years to qualify. That rules out a whole lot of people, especially contract workers, women, seasonal workers and workers in the IT sector who are now working on contract and are losing their jobs.
Nothing has been done for our youth who have a 20% unemployment rate, the second highest since 1977. Two hundred and ten thousand youth had no summer jobs and they do not know how they will pay for school. Seventy-five percent of skills training for youth has gone to Conservative ridings.
We have no confidence in the government. It has shown itself to be utterly unworthy of the trust of Canadians as well.
Ms. Christiane Gagnon (Québec, BQ):
Madam Speaker, I will share my time with the member for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord. We have about 15 minutes left before question period starts. I hope it will not be too heated in the House and that everyone will remain calm.
Today, we are debating a Liberal motion that asks whether we still have confidence in the Conservative government, the government in power. Before I answer that question, I must say that the Bloc Québécois has analyzed all of the Conservatives' actions and decisions since their election. We concluded that the Bloc Québécois no longer has confidence in the government and that it will support the Liberals' motion for a number of reasons.
We asked ourselves two questions: do we have confidence in how the government deals with Quebec and the needs of Quebec? For example, what actions has the government taken to support the manufacturing and forestry industries? We know that since 2005 these sectors have been pressuring the government for assistance. The forestry and manufacturing industries were sacrificed during the economic crisis, but since 2005, these industries have been losing ground even more quickly, and we should have helped them through the crisis. In Quebec, plants have been closed and people have been laid off. Some people have been temporarily laid off and some are permanently unemployed. We need only think of AbitibiBowater in Portneuf, and in Beaupré, where this week, 400 workers were temporarily put out of work, knowing that perhaps this company would not be saved in time for them to return. Some workers will be sacrificed.
Another question we asked ourselves had to do with employment insurance. For years, the Bloc has been calling for a real reform of the employment insurance program. We have witnessed the pillaging of the EI fund. The Bloc Québécois condemned the Liberals for taking money from the EI fund, putting it in the consolidated revenue fund and using it to pay government expenses. The workers and employers who paid into the fund should have had a say in how the money in that fund was distributed.
One might have thought the Conservative government would have appreciated the urgent need for action to help certain workers make it through the crisis. Moreover, the OECD made two requests, one of which was to not let workers down. A good way to not let workers down when jobs are being lost or people are being laid off temporarily is to make sure that they receive employment insurance so that they can get through the crisis. We also learned that unemployment in Canada would reach 10%. That, too, should have sounded the alarm for the Conservative Party.
But the Conservative Party has never believed in the economic crisis. I remember the debates we had in the Quebec City area during the election campaign. The Conservative Party said that there was no economic crisis and that everything was rosy. It wanted people to believe that that was self-evident. Meanwhile, the United States was entering an economic slowdown. When 85% of our exports go to the United States, we should be worried about whether American consumers will consume as much and buy Canadian products. It did not take a master's degree in economics to see that there would be an economic slowdown in Canada. Yet the Conservatives kept mum and remained passive about the economic crisis.
How can we believe that they are taking the economic crisis in Canada and in Quebec seriously, or that they will help the aerospace sector and the manufacturing industries that are also suffering from the crisis?
The Conservatives were elected, but since voters did not quite believe them, they only gave them a minority government. The Conservatives then came up with a budget in 2009. Everyone was worried and we expected them to shake things up and to show that they were taking the situation seriously. What they did instead was to introduce an ideological plan. They forgot all about a plan to recover from the economic crisis.
Instead, the Conservatives proposed an ideological type of plan, because they wanted to first target political financing, but not for just any party. Indeed, under that plan the Bloc Québécois would no longer be eligible for political funding. This shows how the Conservatives engaged in petty politics, this at a time when the public was expecting the government to deal with the economic crisis.
The Conservatives forgot about the crisis and engaged further in petty politics by eliminating the court challenges program. As members know, francophones outside Quebec would often rely on that program to be represented before the courts, when they were overlooked regarding certain requests, or when they were being ostracized. Women also used that program for the same reasons.
Why did the Conservatives make that decision? Because the program bothered them and they did not want to pay for people who were challenging them. That is some kid of openness on the part of a government and a political party that are supposed to make sound use of the power delegated to them by voters through a democratic process.
I believe the Bloc Québécois is an opposition party that is well represented here, because, over the years, Quebeckers have consistently elected a majority of Bloc members. Members opposite should ask themselves why Bloc Québécois members get elected, despite what the minister from the Quebec City region said this morning, namely that the Bloc's presence here is a paradox. I told her that the real paradox is that she is a minister.
So, our study provided us with a number of examples which showed the direction taken by the government in various areas, whether social, such as employment insurance, cultural or economic, and which also showed that this government has not met Quebec's needs.
Why was $10 billion injected so quickly into Ontario's auto industry? We are told that this saved hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of jobs. However, jobs have also been lost in the forestry industry and manufacturing industry in Quebec. Yet Quebec was given only $70 million. One can understand why Quebeckers feel abandoned by the Conservative government. That is just one example among many. I could give other examples besides employment insurance.
To prevent more jobs from being lost, instead of introducing Bill C-50, which excludes workers laid off temporarily because they file too many claims for employment insurance, what was really needed was a complete overhaul of the system, taking into account those who are excluded from employment insurance.
The Conservative government says it is acknowledging long-tenured workers. That is great. I have nothing against that. However, they have forgotten seasonal workers, for example, who are having difficulty getting their jobs back, because their industries are working at a much slower pace. They have also forgotten people who work in the tourism, construction and manufacturing sectors, just to name a few.
We would have liked to see the employment insurance system completely overhauled and to have it looked at very seriously. But the opposite is happening. We are facing exactly the opposite situation. It should therefore come as no surprise that the Bloc Québécois will be voting with the Liberal Party, because the Conservatives have not fulfilled their duty to Quebec.