’This is a serious step and we owe an explanation’

Below is a transcript of Michael Ignatieff’s remarks to the House this morning in moving the official opposition’s motion of non-confidence. The Liberal leader’s office says he spoke without a prepared script.

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% has been committed but when we actually look at the stimulus funding that we can see on the ground, 12% 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% 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 Suaad Mohamud or Abdulrazik, 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.