Against Opposition Motion
March 23, 2009
I rise today in the House to speak to the hon. member's motion before us.
I must admit though that while I am typically very pleased to have an opportunity to speak in the chamber, today is quite a different story.
Today I rise with sadness at the hon. member's resolve to do his utmost to prevent the government from getting stimulus money to those who need it most. While he continues to throw up roadblocks I have to wonder if the hon. member is really not aware of the effect of his efforts on Canadians, Canadians who are trying to pull together enough money to make their monthly mortgage payments so they do not lose their homes, Canadians who may have to go to food banks because they do not have enough money to put food on the table themselves, Canadians who have asked their elected representatives to stop their political posturing and to protect them in their time of need.
Our government consulted widely with Canadians on what action to take. The result is an economic action plan to inject $40 billion into the economy over the next two years. This plan, tabled as part of the earliest budget in history, is designed to jump start growth, to sustain the recovery and to help Canadians in these difficult times. In fact it has been praised by the International Monetary Fund. In a recent report it called it large, timely and well targeted. It said that our immediate focus should be on implementing the budget to mobilize spending. We are acting through all available means to protect our economy and to protect Canadians affected by the downturn. That includes the tax system, the employment insurance program, direct spending by federal and provincial governments, lending by crown corporations and partnerships with the private sector.
Only 42 days after the plan was presented we had done all we could to make the plan fully operational by April 1. This is six to twelve months ahead of the usual budget timeframe.
Why are we so focused on putting this plan to work so quickly? It is because our plan is designed to boost the economy when it is needed the most; now and over the next 24 months.
What have we done to lay the foundation for the implementation of this plan? Virtually all cabinet policy approvals are expected to be in place by the end of this month. We are ready to roll out $12 billion in spending on roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure. We introduced the recently passed Budget Implementation Act which includes $7.6 billion in spending authorities and seeks parliamentary approval of $2.4 billion in tax reductions for 2009-10.
We have tabled the 2009-10 main estimates which include a new central vote. This vote will enable Treasury Board ministers to allocate up to $3 billion in funding directly to departments. These funds are for immediate cash requirements directly related to measures in the economic action plan. Every single eligible program or project must be approved by the Treasury Board. This funding is only until formal, supplementary estimates for these initiatives have received the usual parliamentary approval. This vote will be used to fund specific economic action plan measures like building roads, fixing bridges and providing skills training for those Canadians hit hardest by this global recession.
As a result of this approach by April 1, we would have authority to proceed with providing about $20 billion in budget measures. This would represent close to 90% of the stimulus contained in the economic action plan for 2009-10. Therefore it saddens me to know that much of this work will be for naught if the hon. member has his way. It also saddens me to know that despite the fact that our non-partisan public service has been working nonstop, day and night, to get this money flowing quickly, the hon. member continues to play partisan politics.
My constituents have made it clear that they want politicians to stop playing political games and get to work on their behalf. I suspect that all hon. members are hearing the same refrain from residents in their ridings. I suspect that is why the leader of the official opposition instructed his colleagues in the other House to pass the Budget Implementation Act after his party dragged its feet as long as it could.
Members know too well that none of the spending measures contained in the economic action plan can proceed without parliamentary approval. The Budget Implementation Act has finally been passed. To move forward with more stimulus measures, we must now pass the estimates, so what does the hon. member do? He throws up roadblocks to getting this money out to support Canadians hardest hit by the economic downturn. He throws up roadblocks to helping communities and businesses to adjust and grow in these extraordinary times. Instead, as we are cutting bureaucratic red tape, he wants to add more in the name of accountability. We are the government that introduced the Federal Accountability Act as its first piece of legislation coming into office. The hon. member refers to the Auditor General. It was our Federal Accountability Act that strengthened the power of the Auditor General so she can more effectively hold the government to account for its use of taxpayer dollars.
Canadians want to be confident that the Government of Canada is working in their best interests. They expect elected officials and public servants to manage their tax dollars wisely and they expect us to uphold the highest standards of ethical conduct. Is the hon. member really telling Canadians that our hard-working civil servants operate without any or the right controls in place? Does the hon. member think that Canadians want to have daily reports of every penny spent by their government?
We had no problem when the Liberal Party suggested reports every three months, so we said yes, but the hon. member cannot take yes for an answer. Now he is not satisfied with reports every three months. Now he wants daily reports. Does the hon. member think the reports he wants just spring out of thin air? Does he not realize what a paper burden that will be? Why does he want to divert our civil servants from examining projects, making sure of matching funds, getting the paperwork done and cutting the cheques? That is what Canadians want. They surely do not want our civil servants bogged down in redundant daily reports simply because the hon. member cannot wait until June.
One moment the hon. member says he knows the importance of speedy stimulus spending. The next moment he wants to bog down the process with extra paperwork. How shameless. How sad.
Our Federal Accountability Act provided Canadians with the open and honest government they deserve, one that acts responsibly, rewards integrity and demonstrates accountability. That is the approach we live every day. It is the same approach that we are taking to these economic stimulus measures.
I stand today in this House and ask my hon. colleagues to reject this motion and I call upon them to stop serving partisan interests and instead start serving those who elected us to this place.