Mrs. Bev Desjarlais (Churchill, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity for more time to make some comments on the budget bill, Bill C-48. Obviously the New Democrats are very happy with the budget.
I know that my colleagues on the Conservative benches keep insisting this was a budget that was done on a napkin or the back of an envelope. The reality is that this budget resulted from the NDP meeting with a number of groups that wanted to see changes and improvements within the budget.
We knew what Canadians wanted. We knew where there were faults within the first budget and where we wanted to see changes made. A number of days stretched into evenings and late hours of the night while we were negotiating changes and improvements to that budget. It was not done with a quick snappy “this is what we want” attitude. It was done seriously and with a focus on maintaining what our leader has said from day one: a belief in a balanced budget.
I have supported that. As someone who has been involved in municipal politics as part of a school board, I know it is important to stick within budget mandates. I totally support that. Our leader supports it and this is what we have followed through on.
Part of the criteria for this change was that we wanted these changes made but we still wanted to see a balanced budget. That is what we have. This attitude that somehow it is going to put us grossly in debt and is the downfall as a nation is just not accurate. I think the Conservatives do themselves an injustice by suggesting this, because it is not the case.
There is one fact that I cannot seem to understand. I do not know where the Conservatives are coming from on this. It is in regard to how it is somehow awful that NDP is getting $4.6 billion that is going back to Canadians in services.
There will be $4.6 billion going back to the Canadian taxpayers for affordable housing, which is absolutely crucial to the nation, not only in my riding and first nations communities, where it is desperately needed, but throughout the nation. Seniors need affordable housing as well. Even in smaller rural communities housing stock has reached a point where changes are needed.
We need a type of independent living arrangement whereby seniors can move out of their own homes but still have a focus on independent living. They may need additional types of housing to support that situation. Under affordable housing they may be able to get that type of housing. It is a crucial need. Somehow the Conservatives expect that as a New Democrat I should feel shame that we fought for this within the budget, but it is not going to happen. I take great pride in the changes that were made to the budget, affordable housing being number one.
The second area is the additional dollars for education. How many of us stand on numerous occasions saying that it is crucially important for us to have a trained and educated nation? The Conservatives do it as well. Then, when we work within the budget to provide additional dollars to support students and educational facilities, somehow we should feel shame that we obtained that for Canadians? It is not going to happen. I take great pride in the fact that we obtained additional dollars for education support.
There are additional dollars to assist developing nations. Again, this is greatly needed. All opposition parties sent letters to the Prime Minister indicating the need for additional dollars and now somehow that was wrong thing to do? I do not think so.
There are additional dollars for Kyoto and improving on the environment. I have received comments from around my own riding and from the municipalities stating appreciation for those dollars as well as the dollars they are going to receive from the gas taxes. Why would we feel bad about that?
Who should be feeling bad? It is the Conservatives who should be feeling bad. They are saying that it was somehow okay to give $4.6 billion in tax cuts to corporations.
I want to add something to that. Part of the deal was as well to ensure that small and medium sized businesses would maintain their tax breaks. Those are the businesses in each and every one of our small towns throughout the nation, in every rural and remote community. They are not the large corporations that can take a lot of their assets offshore and skirt around our tax rules, which a number of them do already. They are not the banks, which make billions of dollars. A lot of them are not even paying taxes.
We are not there to ensure that they get corporate tax cuts. Over the years they have had a number of tax cuts. There were already tax cuts in place for those corporations and they are still going to proceed. These were additional tax cuts for corporations. Somehow as New Democrats we should feel bad that we said no, we are not going to accept $4.6 billion in corporate tax cuts while the Liberals do not give back services to Canadians? That is not acceptable.
It is beyond me how the Conservatives think Canadians will be fooled by their attitude that somehow by giving back to Canadians in services we in the NDP have brought the country down and we are not going to have businesses investing in anything. We all know already that businesses, in spite of getting numerous tax cuts, were still moving offshore and were still finding loopholes to take their taxes out of this country. That is not acceptable.
Built into the plan was a balanced budget, a balanced approach. If the surplus is not there, then there is no flow. That is acknowledged. My colleague from the Conservatives said there is probably a $10 billion surplus. We are talking about $4.6 billion. We all know and expect that in reality the surplus is even greater because the Liberals have made so many cuts and have not followed through on many programs. We are going to try to make sure this happens. The way to do it is as a group of parliamentarians insisting that it happen, so that all Canadians benefit, not just corporations benefiting from tax cuts.
If the surplus is not there, we acknowledge that the dollars will not flow, but the reality, and we all know it, is that the surplus is there. I will be the first to admit that although this is a better balanced budget than what was there before, it certainly is not everything. The sure way to make it everything for Canadians is to put people in charge of the government and the country who are going to follow through on their word and make sure those things happen.
We know that is not going to happen with the Conservatives. They agreed with the Liberals that $4.6 billion in tax cuts to corporations was the first route to take. They supported it. They still insist they supported that first budget. We came along and said no, that is not acceptable, and the government is going to give back to Canadians. The sure way of ensuring that Canadians get the dollars flowing for them is to put more New Democrats in the House and put them in charge. Ideally that is when we will see the best results for Canadians.
When my colleagues say there was nothing extra for agriculture, they are absolutely right. Of course we would have loved to see additional supports for agriculture, but again, in negotiations there is give and take. We were following a plan of what we had to work with. We said we would maintain a balanced budget, but absolutely there should be more assistance for agricultural producers throughout the country.
Absolutely there should have been changes with EI and dollars flowing to workers who have lost numerous benefits over time, but again, I did not see the Conservatives getting in there and saying they wanted money for agriculture after the first budget. They did not say they wanted money for workers. They were accepting that budget with nothing in it. We went in with a minority negotiating position, we accept that, using what we had to get something better for Canadians.
There is an ideal way to get even more for Canadians and to ensure that what comes into the tax coffers in Ottawa means fairness in our tax system and fairness and balance in how those dollars go back to support our nation and Canadians overall. That is to put others in charge who are going to follow through, who are not just going to make up stories and promises for 12 years as the Liberals have done.
I admit it. I have to wonder if Liberals are going to follow through. We are putting our trust in them to do so, but that trust is based on the fact that they are in a minority position. They know Canadians are already questioning their integrity. They know that if they do not follow through on this, they are done for with Canadians, because on top of the scandal with Gomery, Canadians will know they were not going to follow through on a budget that Canadians have told us they want.
The municipalities have told us that and individual Canadians have told us that. People in my riding have told me that. Only one person in my riding wanted an election and wanted the government to fall. All the rest of them said they wanted us to make it work and that we were doing a fantastic job. They said they wanted us to make Parliament work and they wanted the budget we have worked out to pass because it is the budget that is going to help them out.
Subtopic: An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments