The Budget

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his presentation and specifically for raising the subject of VIA Rail.

I have also gone through the budget, and the weirdest thing about the budget, which is pretty singular for any budget in Canadian history, is that it does not include numbers. It does not give us the bottom line, department by department.

In the case of VIA Rail, for example, the main estimates cut by 60% VIA Rail’s budget. Whereas it had been $475 million, for this year it would be $187 million. That is a $288 million cut.

The budget talks about money for VIA Rail, $54 million this year and $57 million over the next five years, but gives no indication of whether there will be supplemental estimate money that would keep VIA Rail viable, or whether this is really the death knell for VIA Rail with a couple of announcements thrown in to be band-aids on a gaping wound.

I wonder if my friend has any thoughts on what is really happening to VIA Rail in this budget.


Robert Chisholm: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for picking up my comments on VIA. It is a very serious concern for those of us in Atlantic Canada, the way the service has been gutted over the past few months. We are concerned that the Conservatives are setting the stage for the end of it.

It makes me crazy that the government does not follow through with any commitment. How can it when it is not prepared to have a national strategy on transit, for example?

The Conservatives talk about their commitment on skills training. We are one of the only developed countries in the western world that does not have a national skills-building and training strategy. It is deplorable to think that the government would solve the problem on skills training, for example, and it does not have any idea which way to go.

Countries like Germany, after which the government likes to model itself in the area of skills training, has a long history of working together with unions and companies, and it has a national strategy. We do not have a good history of working together, nor do we have a national strategy on skills training.