OTTAWA – This week was the first week of the 41st Parliament and for many it had the same feel as that first day of school. Voters from all across Canada chose a very different group of people to represent them and there are many fresh faces now mixed in with the returning crowd. More than 100 new MPs to be precise.
With all these changes made by the Canadian people you might expect that the Conservative Government might think that it is time to try doing things differently. They had two great chances to do just that in this first week with the Throne Speech and the budget. Sadly though, the Conservatives failed to seize those opportunities and gave us more of the same that we have seen before.
Some of you reading this may think that I might be exaggerating, but I can’t help but point to Budget 2011 itself as the best example. This budget is almost the exact same budget that was introduced and rejected back in March. The budget document introduced by the Conservatives this week is precisely 22 pages longer than the 352 page long budget brought forward in March and contains only a couple of minor additions.
Like the March budget, this document fails to make life more affordable for Canadian families. It does not address the reasonable and affordable proposals made by the NDP before and during the election. There is nothing in this document to strengthen the Canada Pension Plan, nothing to provide relief for the family budget, nothing for the millions of Canadians without access to a family doctor and fails to lift seniors every out of poverty. To make matters worse, the Conservatives will be saddling the treasury with $15 billion a year in corporate tax giveaways that won’t guarantee one new job. With this budget they have shown that they won’t budge on giving away billions to the most profitable corporations. Instead, to help pay for those corporate tax giveaways, they will cut $11 billion from the programs and services Canadians rely on, without telling Canadians where those cuts are going to be made.
All that being said there are some measures in the budget that I am happy to see. Items like the temporary restoration of the EcoEnergy Home retrofit program and the funding for the new Cyclotron in Thunder Bay are welcomed inclusions. While these are encouraging steps, they still fall short of what the people of our region need. These are only half measures and they do not outweigh the weaknesses in the budget before us.
While this carbon-copy budget is a disappointing start of this Parliament, I can’t say I’m feeling negative about what lays ahead over the next four years. I feel very positive about the effect of all my newly elected colleagues have had on the House of Commons so far. This first week in the House has been probably the most civil and respectful that I have witnessed in all my time here. Most of these new Members of Parliament have never worked in a place where heckling and insulting colleagues was acceptable, practices which have been typical in the House of Commons for many years. These new, young MPs are setting the example of how Parliamentarians should behave and they give me great hope for the 41st Parliament. So despite the disappointing budget before us now, my new colleagues make me feel very positive about the year ahead of us.
John Rafferty MP
Thunder Bay Rainy River