Mr. Michael Ignatieff (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.) 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.
Nous avons perdu confiance dans ce gouvernement et nous nous mettons debout pour protéger les gens qui ont été abandonnés par ce gouvernement. Je vais essayer de donner des raisons concrètes pour lesquelles nous allons retirer la confiance de ce gouvernement.
First of all, the Conservatives have lost control of the public finances of our country. A year ago they were at the edge of deficit; by February, they were at a deficit of $32-billion; suddenly, four or five weeks later, it is at $50-billion; and at the end of the summer they announced 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 and all Canadians must understand that this deficit is going to 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 Liberals cannot have confidence in the government.
The second reason is a question we have 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, that makes us stronger, that 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, we have heard the announcement that 90 per cent has been committed but when we actually look at the stimulus funding that we can see on the ground, 12 per cent 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 it is still a soy bean field.
There is worse than that. The government has used taxpayers' 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 90 per cent of them are ready for the H1N1 epidemic. They know perfectly well their nursing stations are not ready. What did they get from the government? They got body bags.
We are not finished. Across the country there are cancer and heart patients 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 and traded away is getting longer and longer: Nortel, Inco, Falconbridge, Stelco, 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. If one is named Saad Mohammed or Abdul Razik, 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 area. 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, 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 named 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.
Les Canadiens ne cherchent pas un gouvernement centralisateur. La vision de ce parti à la Chambre, est celle d'un gouvernement de coopération, d'un gouvernement qui reflète les vraies valeurs des Canadiens comme l'entraide, non le chacun pour soi, et les valeurs de compassion et de compétence. Les Canadiens cherchent un gouvernement qui comprend les mots comme compromis, collaboration, compassion, respect. On attend en vain un gouvernement qui réponde à ces valeurs.
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 fund raiser 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 arouse 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 by 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 when 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”, and no tax increases.
This party has discovered when we look carefully they have a payroll tax hidden in the wings of $13-billion and they do not have the guts to stand up and tell Canadians that is what they are doing.
Nous méritons mieux. Nous méritons un gouvernement de compassion, de créativité, de collaboration, un gouvernement qui unit les Canadiens, qui ne les divise pas, un gouvernement qui invite les Québécois, les francophones de tout le pays au pouvoir, un gouvernement qui va gouverner au lieu de diviser les Canadiens avec des jeux partisans.
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 leaders, not followers, 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. 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. ...
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 any recession, but before any recession began. When 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. 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 per cent or, 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 to not 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 fear mongering or to use another one of his words, it was 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 was now going to 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 per cent. 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 time frame 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. Therefore where does that leave us? It leaves us with a government that failed to see a recession was on its 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; 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 was a recession here and the 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, with claiming credit but in fact, less than 20 per cent 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 per cent.
Meanwhile, 486,000 full time Canadian jobs have been destroyed on the government's watch. It promised 190,000. It lost 486,000. In the coming year the government is now promising to find magically, 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. Unemployed will come near 10 per cent.
What does this wrong-headed government now propose? A new Conservative tax on jobs. It is going to 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 per cent.
Just as Canadian employers will be struggling to generate new jobs the government is going to 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.
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, it is about floor crossers in the cabinet, it is about fixed election dates, it is about appointing more senators than any other Prime Minister in Canadian history, it is 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.
Madam Speaker, the essence of the question was what has changed lately to result in this non-confidence motion. In 50 seconds I can hardly do that justice but let me mention a few things very quickly.
The government revealed that its deficit was not going to be $50 billion but was going to be $56 billion, it was going to last for six years and the total damage was going to be $170 billion.
The government also announced or revealed, maybe inadvertently, that it is going to be imposing a $13 billion employment insurance payroll tax increase which it had previously denied it was going to do.
We also received further and greater information about the failure in infrastructure delivery, where it is claiming 80 per cent or 90 per cent of projects actually delivered. When we talk to those very municipalities across the country, the vast majority of them say that the delivery rate is more like 12 per cent to 15 per cent.
That is what has changed, among a lot of other things.”
Thursday, October 1, 2009
Posted by Fillibluster at 8:04 PM