Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal (Newton—North Delta, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Cape Breton—Canso.
I rise to comment on a budget that is thankfully a more realistic response to our economic needs than the fiscal update we saw from the government last November.
If we take away all the political drama and games last fall, at the heart of the matter was the most partisan document that had ever been presented by any government in Canadian history. It claimed that the surplus budgets would continue. It offered no stimulus package. It played games with the public financing for political parties and most troubling of all, it treated the Canadian public with a lack of honesty and respect.
The story the government tells has gone through an amazing transformation over the past five months. In September the Prime Minister claimed that there would not be a recession. In October he promised that he would never run a deficit. In November he pledged that he would deliver multiple years of surplus budgets. In December he predicted a $20 billion deficit. Now we have just found out that over the next two years, the deficits will be totalling an astonishing $64 billion.
While I am pleased that Canadians are finally beginning to get a true picture of the government and the health of our economy, I am also very concerned about a number of issues with this budget, but I will focus only on the infrastructure funding that is needed now.
I believe it is very important that the promised infrastructure funding that each community across the country needs should be diverted now. In my riding of Newton—North Delta, both the Corporation of Delta and the city of Surrey have sent a number of shovel-ready projects that are waiting for the federal funding to begin.
While there is $7 billion of new money that has been offered for infrastructure projects, it is also a fact that the government has a shameful record when it comes to distributing these moneys. In the past three years, over $2 billion in budgeted infrastructure spending has not been used due to the mismanagement of the government. In 2007 the $9 billion building Canada fund was introduced to provide much needed funding for a long list of infrastructure needs from coast to coast to coast. Unfortunately, in the first year, the building Canada fund flowed only $20 million into this economy.
Canada can no longer have these kinds of delays and failures. Municipalities are desperate for the federal government to come to the table, and it is the time to act immediately.
I want to talk about my constituents and what the municipal leaders are telling me.
I talked to Delta councillor Bruce McDonald yesterday. He told me that the Boundary Bay Airport had committed money for improvements from the province and the private sector, and it is waiting for the partnership from the federal government. Boundary Bay Airport is the fifth largest airport in Canada.
In Surrey, to take one example, we have an urgent need for a new RCMP detachment building to serve the city's rapidly growing population. This facility will create local jobs and is essential to protect the safety and well-being of our community.
These are the priorities that my constituents and municipal counterparts are talking to me about, the kind that they need now. The sense of urgency is real and there is a common desire to get down to work.
It is because of these expectations of Canadians that my leader and our party have put the government on probation. Because of the Conservative government's poor track record, we are calling on the government to accept mandatory reporting requirements so the Canadian public knows if the money promised in the budget is getting to those who need it the most.
Transparency and openness are the only things that will allow the government to regain its credibility on the economy and the quality of these upcoming reports will be the test of whether the government is defeated or not.
The official opposition has only one priority at this moment: we must work together to get the economy back on track. At this point, nothing else matters. As representatives of the people, it is imperative that we work together for the best interests of Canadians to face today's challenges head on. We need to read the budget, reflect on it and then work together to improve it. These are the times to seek out common ground, not narrow partisan interests.
Our Liberal approach is to offer amendments to improve it, not to oppose it without a thought about its objectives or without any consideration for the plight of Canadians facing a tough financial crisis.
At the end of the day, this is all about accountability. Ironically, that is a principle that the Prime Minister has preached about for many years. In the past, when we talked to Canadians, they all agreed that he had not been able to deliver on his lofty promises. Now is the time to prove that he can be a man of his word and ready to show Canadians that the books are not being hidden from the public.
We, as the official opposition, have a duty to ensure that the responsibilities of the government are fulfilled. The government is in need of adult supervision. The mistakes of the past can be avoided in future if the guidance of Liberal experience in economic management is followed.
Year after year of balancing the books, paying down the debt, gaining confidence in the economy and cutting taxes is a record that has been erased in the last short three years. However, Canadians can now be assured that the Liberal Party will be guiding the economy into a better place from this point forward. Canada needs our support for the budget to weather this financial crisis and once again lead the G8 in economic growth, a feat that regularly occurred under the leadership of Liberal prime ministers.
The budget has potential, but it can only be realized if Canadians are convinced that their tax dollars are in steady hands and that the information they are being provided is accurate and true. That is why we are amending the budget and putting the Conservative budget on probation, to bring confidence back into the House of Commons.
Subtopic: The Budget
Sub-subtopic: Financial Statement of Minister of Finance