NDP Leader Jack Layton scolded Prime Minister Stephen Harper last Monday night for ignoring vulnerable Canadians.
Layton stood before a packed crowd at the Wu Conference Centre to talk about the current economic crisis in Canada, and issues specific to New Brunswick.
Layton said employment rates in the country have dropped increasingly over the past couple of months. Thousands of workers have been laid off and are turning to Employment Insurance for help.
Despite this, Layton said the Conservative budget does not make EI a priority.
“Some of the people who are being laid off today have been paying their EI deductions without any complaints for years,” Layton said.
“But suddenly at age 48 they find themselves losing a job that paid $19 an hour… and then they try to get EI and they often find that they don’t qualify.”
Layton said while Paul Martin was the Liberal finance minister, he created a $54 billion surplus that was supposed to go into the unemployment insurance account.
Instead, Layton said the government used the money to cut taxes “for the rich and biggest, most profitable companies.”
Layton said that the Stephen Harper’s plans aren’t any better.
Of the $54 billion, he said the federal budget put only $11 million – $0.30 per Canadian – back into the EI account.
He compared that with the $200 billion the Conservatives gave to the banks.
Layton said the Conservatives victimize students.
He said thee budget gave “sweeping powers…to the minister in charge of student loans to allow them to obtain from either [the students] or [their families] as much personal information as they might require,” Layton explained.
Layton said when the Governor General prorogued parliament in December, Harper was supposed to use the socalled “extension” to “[change] his ways with this budget.”
But Harper failed to do anything good, he said.
Layton referred to the United States President Barack Obama in the speech. He said he looks forward to Canada following Obama’s steps.
“[Obama’s] going to think big and he’s going to move boldly and we’re going to move with him and make some things happen,” Layton said.
“Here in Canada of course, we do things a little differently.”