Bill C-30 (Historical)
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
Ralph Goodale Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Message from the Senate
The Royal Assent
May 14th, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
May 13, 2004
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 13th day of May, 2004 at 6:56 p.m.
Secretary to the Governor General
The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act--Chapter No. 18; Bill C-20, an act to change the names of certain electoral districts--Chapter 19; Bill C-28, an act to amend the Canada National Parks Act--Chapter 20; Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences--Chapter 21; Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 23, 2004--Chapter 22; and Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs (The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa)--Chapter 23.
I also have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
May 13, 2004
I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 13th day of May, 2004 at 9:10 p.m.
The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill C-3, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act--Chapter 24.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 5th, 2004 / 5:25 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
It being 5:29 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at third reading stage of Bill C-30.
Call in the members.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 5:10 p.m.
Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-30.
I compliment the member for Dauphin—Swan River. He raised a lot of issues that tweaked my mind and reminded me of things I would like to talk about.
I sometimes wonder whether there is any point in discussing the budgets, presentations, throne speeches and all the announcements the Liberals make because they change them so fast and they do not keep their word.
Just a few months ago the government announced in a big flurry of activity a $750 million program for passenger rail service in central Canada. It was a big deal. There were lots of headlines and lots of coverage and within months they retracted it. They made it all go away. It is not going to happen now. It was just one of those announcements they made to get a few headlines, to get some support and then it fizzled away within months. It does not take long.
Let us look at some of the other things the Liberals have done. I remember the hep C program. They came out with a program to help fund a narrow window of victims of hepatitis C but when there was opposition to it and a lot of criticism, they changed it. They did not change it enough, but they changed it to include more people. There are still a lot of victims of hep C who do not have access to funding.
In the recent budget the Liberals announced a tax exemption for military officers serving in dangerous areas. They announced it in a big flurry but when there was opposition and criticism, they had to change it. They expanded it. It is the same with a number of things.
There were health care announcements in the recent budget. I could not believe it. In just days after the budget the Liberals were announcing new terms for health care and more money because everybody knows they shortchanged the provinces in the budget.
We cannot go by what they announce. We can only go by what they do and that is precious little. The Liberals do not do a lot.
The hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River mentioned a few things that I want to cover, such as the gas tax on highways. My riding has the only portion of the Trans-Canada Highway that has a toll on it. It costs me $8 to go from one side of my riding to the other. Every other four-lane highway in the province of Nova Scotia is free and every other part of the Trans-Canada Highway is free, but my riding has an extra tax. Nowhere else in Canada has this tax, except my riding of Cumberland—Colchester.
It happened when the Liberals were in power federally and provincially. The funding was put in place to build a four-lane highway. It was put in place by a Progressive Conservative federal government and was signed off by a Progressive Conservative provincial government. It was 100% funding.
What happened? When the Liberals got in, a Liberal minister on the federal side made a deal with the Liberal minister on the provincial side in Nova Scotia. They transferred that money from my riding to a completely separate issue, a different kind of road in Cape Breton. This was under the national highway program. I will never understand how they were able to do that but they took the money out of the national highway program and put it toward a tourist road in their own ridings.
That is the way the Liberals do things. What they say they are going to do matters not much.
The member for Dauphin—Swan River mentioned overtaxation in EI.
I find it incredible that the government taxes students in the summers. They have to pay employment insurance premiums but they have no access to employment insurance. They cannot get the benefit but the government taxes them. They are charged the employment insurance premium. I find it so discouraging and so offensive that the Liberals would do that.
That is just a part of the $44 billion to $47 billion overcharge in employment insurance which I consider to be fraud. I look at the paycheques of my constituents and right on them it says “employment insurance premium”. It is not a premium for employment insurance. It is strictly a tax. It is fraud. It is getting money under false pretences because it is not an EI premium. I think that account is up to $44 billion or $46 billion that has been overcharged. That is forty-four thousand million dollars the government has overcharged people for working.
Part of that is what the young people have been overcharged. Students who have to work in the summer have their paycheques reduced because of an employment insurance premium, which really is not a premium because they cannot get the benefit.
Students do not qualify for the benefit because they are not available for work. It is fraud. It does not even make sense that the Liberals do this, but they go on and do it.
In the budget proposals there is no allowance for submarines. It is an issue that I have been involved with. Canada bought four submarines six years ago. Not one of them works yet. Not one of them is deployable. Not one of them is ready to go to work after six years. It takes 18 to 24 months to build a brand new submarine. We have had these for six years. They do not work yet. Why do they not work? Because the government has not made the resources available to make them work.
I visited the dockyards and I was very impressed with the submariners who want to work on the submarines. They are committed to these subs; they believe in these subs. They are sure they can do the job for Canada but they do not have the tools; they do not have the parts; they do not have the production workers; they do not have the production managers. They do not have the will on behalf of the government to give them the tools.
We have four submarine crews that have not had a working submarine for seven years. They want to serve the country. They want to serve Canada. They are sure that if they are given the tools they can make these submarines work and serve their purpose. However they do not have those resources. I do not know why the government has done it but it has sidelined the submarine project. It has not given them the resources. The Liberals have actually taken resources away from them.
We see the sponsorship scandal and all the money that has been wasted that could have been put to good use. It is a shame that we have not taken the money that has been wasted on the scandal and put it into the areas where it is so desperately needed.
Imagine what the money that is taken in on the employment insurance overcharge, the $44 billion, could do for health care. The government makes a big deal about putting $1 billion into health care. The government has announced it 10 to 15 times. The Liberals make a big deal every time they are going to put $1 billion into health care. There is a $44 billion overcharge in employment insurance. Imagine what a fraction of that would do for the health care system. It would solve the problems. Instead, the Liberals continue on with the overcharge approach.
The sponsorship grants are absolutely incredible. I see the minister is here. I would like him to make a note that my all time favourite sponsorship grant is No. 699. It is called unforeseen events for Groupaction marketing of $200,000. I do not have a clue what it is. I do not know whether it is unforeseen events or whether it is an organization called unforeseen events. The list indicates that for unforeseen events there is $200,000. That is the way the Liberals spend our money.
If the minister could find out what that is for me I would be forever in his debt. I know he will because he is very good at getting information. That is my all time favourite. There are 721 on one list of sponsorship grants and there is a bunch more on another list. It is endless.
When I have to fight so hard to get a few dollars for a transition house in my riding or for Maggie's Place or for so many worthy causes that really need a few dollars, it is so disheartening to look at these grants of $2 million, $2.3 million, $1.2 million, $1.3 million, $2.3 million, $2 million, $1.2 million, $1.5 million, $1.6 million, $3 million and on and on. I am just going down the list. We need a few dollars to help a transition house to help battered women and we cannot get it.
In any event I think the Liberals have their priorities completely distorted. They are going in the wrong direction. We can give them some good ideas on how to better invest the money to serve Canadians better.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 4:45 p.m.
Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak for the second time to Bill C-30. I am speaking to the bill because it deals with a very important issue, the budget.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River.
When the Prime Minister took office after being elected as leader of the Liberal Party, he promised Canadians a new vision that would be different from the previous government. He promised in the throne speech that he would connect with Canadians and offer them an alternative.
We then moved from the throne speech into the budget speech, where, in all honesty, after taking everything into consideration, we saw it as band-aid solution budget. We all knew the Prime Minister wanted to call an election because he was riding high in the polls and he thought the steam engine of the Liberal Party could sweep the country.
Lo and behold, the record of the Liberal government smacked it right in the face, as the member of the NDP just pointed out. The scandal of the management of Canadian taxpayer dollars hit it right smack in the face. What happened? We are now in a holding pattern.
The Prime Minister wants to call an election but he does not know when to call it. The vision he talked about has disappeared. Where will this bill on the budget go? As we all know, we are waiting for the Prime Minister to call an election but he cannot even decide when to call it. Whether it will be on June 14, June 28 or July 5, nobody knows.
The country is now being run in a holding pattern while Canadians wait for important issues to be solved. The last thing on the minds of Canadians is an election. They expect the government to come up with a plan, the budget being one of those plans.
As the critic for international development, I see in the budget that $248 million will go into the international assistance development envelope, which would bring the CIDA budget to over $2.5 billion. People may not know this but CIDA has a budget of $2.5 billion, which is a lot of money, and yet CIDA operates without a legislative mandate. It is left to the mercy of the government or the Prime Minister and politics are being played.
As an international development critic for the last three years, I have seen four ministers at the head of that department and each minister has tried to pass on her or his own ideas and agenda. Why? The reason is that we now have legislation that directs where the money will go. It is left to the whim of the minister and the senior bureaucrats in CIDA. That is why questions keep being raised about where this money is being spent.
Canadians do not know what CIDA is doing. CIDA may have a good international name in countries where it does little patches of work but Canadians do not know where the tax dollars are going in international development. I keep asking that question in the House. Canadians are wondering why emerging economies in countries like China are receiving over $50 million.
Canadians shake their heads about why we are giving a country like China that aid. Every time I raise this question the answer is that there is poverty in China. Yes, we know there is poverty in China. We are very happy to see China as an emerging nation, but China is now in a situation where it has the resources to take care of its people.
Its leaders can take care of its people, but what do they do? They send people into space. They spend all that money for sending people into space. As well, there is an increase in their military expenditures of over 12%. They can do that, yet we stand here and use Canadian taxpayers' dollars and say there is poverty there that we need to address so we have to give them $50 million.
Would that money not be better spent in Africa or in Latin America, in the slums there? I do not understand why and how we can stand up and let the Chinese leaders off the hook. They should be responsible for their own people.
However, this highlights the problem, which I am trying to say is the way CIDA is structured, the way CIDA is operated and the way CIDA is giving out money. The question that comes up time after time is this one: What is happening and where is this money?
Sure, Canadians are very generous. They would like to assist the unfortunate around the world. I am very glad and very proud, and so are members of my party today, to stand up and vote for Bill C-9. I have to give credit to the government for introducing that legislation, but we were the party that was there right away supporting that bill, because we knew Canadians wanted that bill to be supported. That bill is going to give generic drugs to Africa to help in the fight against HIV, malaria and TB. Yes, based on that, we supported it.
However, we need to keep asking this question: Where does the money go?
It is very interesting that the Prime Minister just went down to Washington and made a speech there. He talked about international development assistance, but then what do we say? It is a simple answer: We are giving more money. We are giving more money so we are meeting our commitment to international assistance.
Really, giving more money and using money wisely and effectively is a challenge. It is a challenge unless and until there are structural reform changes that take place in CIDA. Most important, unless CIDA is legislated and is told that these are the areas in which we expect results--i.e., we expect to see money going to poverty reduction or education--only then can we say it is an effective use of dollars. Right now money is spread out as thinly as possible across 105 countries, with every kind of end use, some very good and some excellent, but the result is that nobody is happy.
Then we have CIDA-INC giving money for business ventures. It was proven by my colleague from Cypress Hill, at the time from the Reform Party, that the money was going to the companies with ties to the Liberal Party. The companies took advantage of that.
The bottom line is that while we speak about the budget, while we speak of giving money, it is critically important that the money be effectively spent. That is what Canadians are demanding from the budget.
Let me say very briefly that the budget does not address many of the issues that are most important to people in my riding. What are their issues? Of course one is health care and we are seeing the flip-flops coming out from the government on health care.
Also, I want to say to that New Democratic Party, once and for all, tell us, quote for us, give us the name of who has said for profit health care or private health care. Where did we say that? Tell the hon. member to tell us, Mr. Speaker. The hon. member stands up and blames the Conservative Party, but let her quote from where we have said that.
I also want to say that she knows what our most important issues are, and most important is tax reform, because unless and until Canadians have money in their pockets, only then will that be an effective use of money.
In conclusion, I say we are drifting. We are drifting because of this election and because this Prime Minister and this government have not been able to put forth the vision they promised to Canadians.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 4:25 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the wind-up of our discussion on Bill C-30, the budget implementation act.
Let me say at the outset that it is impossible to talk about budgets or budget implementation acts without addressing the matter of value for money. When it comes to value for money I think Canadians are increasingly disturbed and worried about the lack of regard that the government has for the fundamental principle, that Canadians receive value for their hard-earned tax dollars.
We can imagine how concerned Canadians are when they hear the kind of discussions that took place in the House today around the Auditor General's report. It is impossible to take the budget implementation bill seriously when in fact Liberals in the House tend to dismiss and take out of context the Auditor General's comments.
We all know that when it comes to the sponsorship file the Auditor General clearly said that she did not use the words “stolen” or “missing”. What she said was that Canadians did not get value for money for at least $100 million and maybe more. She said that we are talking about $250 million for which there are enormous questions that have to be answered.
What does the government do, what does it stand up in question period day in and day out and suggest? That the opposition is wrong to take up the call of the Auditor General to try to get to the bottom of this issue. How do we in fact address the budget implementation act when those guys over there will not even take this issue seriously. They get into macho politics saying, “Who is going to come out in the hall and challenge us? We will punch their lights out”. It is stupid, macho politics.
We are talking about upholding a fundamental principle for all Canadians. I get very frustrated with that kind of performance in the House. I find it absolutely reprehensible that the President of the Treasury Board and others--I will not single out the Minister of Public Works--but the President of the Treasury Board would stand up and deride the opposition and make fun of our questions when we are simply trying to find out what services were provided for at least $100 million. If we cannot get answers to that question, how the heck do we get very far in terms of holding the government to account for its budget?
That leads us exactly into what the budget is all about. We would have thought that in the days and weeks following the budget announcement the government would have been out, members of the cabinet would have been out describing, defining, enlightening Canadians as to what the budget does for Canada. Did we get that? No. We got another tremendous example of transparency and accountability on the part of the government.
We saw the Prime Minister go out on taxpayers' money and inform Canadians about what the government will do in the next budget or in the next Parliament and about which candidates are running where and what is happening on the political front. Taxpayers' money was used so the Prime Minister could go on a cross-country tour to build his case for calling and election and for trying to neutralize the horrific mess he has on his plate because of the sponsorship scandal.
Instead of accounting for the budget, the government is trying to pretend it does not exist. The ink was not dry on the paper before the Prime Minister was out selling something new on health care that was not even mentioned in the budget. It was not mentioned in the Speech from the Throne. The word “Romanow” did not appear.
He quickly realized how silly and irresponsible this was, so he was out suddenly announcing a 10 year health plan. He suddenly announced things that the Liberals would do which were not even mentioned in the budget. What kind of accountability is that? What is the purpose of this budget process when we see those kinds of shenanigans in this place?
All the while Canadians are wondering if anyone in the government is standing up and speaking for them. Canadians are struggling day in and day out and they are falling further and further behind. They see millions of dollars being wasted and the government says nothing whenever anyone asks the question.
We have to get answers and we have to start addressing their concerns. Canadians are concerned about making a living and providing for their families, but they are falling further behind. They have fallen steadily behind over the last 10 years.
It is an embarrassment. This country, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, has fallen from first place on the human development index, according to the United Nations, to eighth place, just in a few years, under the Liberals. We are now below even the United States where 40 million Americans have no health care whatsoever.
More and more Canadians are suffering and wondering when they are going to get a raise. More and more Canadians are wondering whether the government has any kind of handle on the economy. There is no job strategy anywhere in sight. We are at 7% unemployment, and it is higher in various regions. There is no mention even of the words job strategy. There is not a plan in place to deal with the fundamental issues of job security and economic security.
All the while, we see more families fall into poverty. Unemployment, as I said, is consistently above 6%. Some 38% of the unemployed are unable to collect benefits. There is a wider gender gap for full time full year work. Women's earnings are only 72% that of men's. Tuition fees are skyrocketing. Child poverty levels are virtually unchanged over the last 30 years. Single mothers and elderly women are more likely to be trapped below poverty. Canada's aboriginal people are still living in third world conditions.
A recent study by the Canadian Association of Social Workers took stock of the last Liberal decade. Women's pre-tax income is still 62% that of men's. Forty-two per cent of unattached women between the ages of 16 to 64 years live in poverty. Women's poverty has actually deepened under the Liberals. Single parent families headed by women remain on the very bottom economic rung.
So much for all that rhetoric from the Liberal benches about equality and being feminists. Women across the country would like to see, finally, the government translate some of its words into action.
Oxfam recently reported that half the women working in Canada earn less than $20,000 a year.
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research confirms that wealth means health, that one-third of single parent families headed by women are poor and that without a national child care program, low income children face a lifetime health and learning disadvantage.
We just received the latest report from the National Council of Welfare. Hot off the press, it is called “Income for Living?” and what does it show? Based on 2000 figures, child care in Ontario, as one example, would cost 42% of a minimum wage earner's take home pay or 33% of a low wage B.C. worker's take home pay.
The same report shows that in Ontario, a single parent earning minimum wage, with one child, would have to spend 67% of their take home pay to live in an average rental unit. Can members believe it? A single mother making even an average wage would still have to spend 40% of her take home pay on rent accommodations.
The list goes on. It is disgraceful. It is an embarrassment. Yet the government does nothing.
What did we see in the budget? Not a focus on giving Canadians a raise; not a focus on ensuring that their hard-earned tax dollars go to projects where there is value for money; not a commitment and a target to eliminate child poverty.
Yes, we have targets. We have targets to reduce the debt, which is great, and no one is saying that we should not reduce the debt, but why are we only focusing on debt reduction? Why is the government trying to get us down to 25% debt to GDP ratio in 10 years time when Canadians are falling further and further behind and many more are living in poverty? The gap between the rich and the poor is growing. Working people are struggling day in and day out and single parent families are always wondering why there is so much month left at the end of the money.
All we are asking the government to do is to finally listen to what Canadians want, do what is in the best interests of the country and address the human deficit, the issues that have been neglected by Liberals for the last 10 years, and start putting Canada back on the map as a nation with compassionate and humanitarian principles.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 3:50 p.m.
Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC
Mr. Speaker, I want to approach the debate on Bill C-30 from a slightly different perspective than what we have had so far this afternoon and this morning. I want to approach it from three points of view. First, setting the tone from the top; second, some useful concepts to look at evaluating the management of government; and finally, the re-use of single use medical devices.
When it comes to setting the tone from the top, one has to pay special tribute to our Auditor-General. She has given a tone to this particular report that is very exemplary. There have been two reports. It is absolutely superb the way in which she has approached the evaluation and the management of certain government programs.
I would like to talk about setting the tone from the top. The top of course is the Prime Minister. There are various management consultants who have talked about leadership and management from the top, and the significance of the top in terms of an organization and its management.
One of these special consultants who works very heavily in this field is a fellow by the name of John C. Maxwell. He did an interview with Don Stephenson, who is the chairman of Global Hospitality Resources, Inc. Global Hospitality Resources, Inc. is called in by companies in the recreation and hotel area that are in financial difficulty to see if there is something that can be salvaged.
Here is what the interview results were. Don Stephenson said whenever there was a take over of an organization, two things were always done. First, all the staff were trained to improve their level of service to the customers; and second, the leader was fired. When he told me that, I was at first surprised. “You always fire the leader?” I asked. He said every time. I asked if he did not talk to the person first to check him out to see if he was a good leader. He answered no, if he had been a good leader, the organization would not be in the mess it was in. That was a very interesting comment.
As Mr. Maxwell says, this is an illustration of the law of the lid. The law of the lid states that leadership ability is always the lid on personal and organizational effectiveness. If the leadership is strong, the lid is high; however, if it is not, then the organization is limited. That is why, according to Maxwell, in times of trouble organizations naturally look for new leadership. When a country is experiencing hard times, it elects a new prime minister.
In Canada, the actual administration and operation of the management of the government's affairs is carried out by the Treasury Board. It plays a key role in developing and fixing the government's management, really refining and developing the management agenda and overseeing its government wide implementation.
We are speaking about the implementation of the budget. The budget is probably the single most significant policy document that an organization or government can ever put together and finally adopt.
In managing the government, the Auditor General provided some very useful concepts. In fact, she listed seven of them. I want to read them into the record because they are very significant. They are found in chapter 7 of the March 2004 Auditor General's report and they are:
Probity--The adherence to the highest principles and ideals.
Prudence--Skill and good judgment in the use of resources.
Economy--Getting the right amount of resources, of the right quality, delivered at the right time and place, at the lowest cost.
Efficiency--The minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output.
Effectiveness--The extent to which the outcomes of an activity match the objective or the intended effects of that activity.
Transparency--Operating in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.
Accountability--The obligation to render an account, and accept responsibility for, one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.
Let us examine this budget and some of the implementation practices that the government has used in applying these concepts.
Probity is the adherence to the highest principles and ideals. It would appear to me that one of the ways in which one can see evidence of probity being used in the management of government affairs would be to have the highest principles and ideals. One of them clearly would be to follow the rules that are there to be used by the bureaucrats. Guess what the Auditor General had to say? She said that virtually every rule in the book was broken on this ad scam program. Clearly that one did not work.
Prudence is the skill and good judgment in the use of resources. I cannot help but look at this in terms of the subsidies that are given to industry. One really asks the question, what is it that government does when it selects certain kinds of industries for subsidy and not others? In fact, one of the critics of this particular program asked and I quote:
I don't know why governments pick one industry to subsidize over another.
This is from a National Bank financial analyst, Steve Laciak. He further said:
They won't rule against steel imports being dumped into Canada, so you wind up watching Stelco, Ivaco and Slater Steel go bankrupt.
On the other hand, other ones are picked and given billions of dollars. Of course, the most recent one here is the one that came up yesterday, Rolls Royce and $30 million, and very closely allied to that is of course Bombardier, which has been getting this money for years.
John Williamson of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said, of Bombardier, and I quote:
--we need to lower taxes to compete internationally, we'd be right there behind him.
I agree with that. He rejected outright the idea of creating more programs like Technology Partnerships Canada. He said:
Anyone who thinks TPC should be expanded should have his head examined. That program has been a total disaster and has only gotten a small fraction back--
I think the issue here is very clear. Subsidies given to certain kinds of industries mean that taxpayers' money is taken from other industries who also pay taxes. The government says that it will take our money now and it will give it to this other industry, which means that the burden falls on this group, and the other group actually gets the benefit.
If that is a wise use of resources, if that is prudence, and if that is skill in the management of resources, I think there is a very strong difference of opinion.
Economy is getting the right amount of resources, of the right quality, delivered at the right time and place, at the lowest cost.I wonder if there is anyone in the audience who would recognize or remember the firearms registry? How effective was that particular program? It was a billion dollars and now going beyond that. People are asking themselves, is it now going to get more money from this budget? Is that really an economical use of taxpayers' money?
Efficiency means the minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output.We have the secret unity fund and we ask ourselves, what is it supposed to accomplish? If we do not know what it is supposed to accomplish, how could we ever measure whether in fact it is doing that. The HRDC boondoggle is another example.
Transparency is operating in a manner that is clear and easy to understand.We found that our Prime Minister who did own CSL, Canada Steamship Lines, actually found that there was $136,000 given to the company, only to discover later that it was actually a hundred million dollars plus. If it was really so transparent, then why was it that it was not known?
Finally, accountability, which is the obligation to render an account, and accept responsibility for, one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.
One then has to draw attention to the fact that we had in the Department of National Defence some $160 million plus that was fraudulently billed because nothing happened. There was $160 million paid and nobody could figure out what it was paid for. That is not accountability.
One has to evaluate these and ask, from these examples alone, were these seven concepts or ways of evaluating things actually observed? Was there direction from the top that clearly said the highest principles and ideals would be observed in the management of our affairs and in the expenditure of taxpayers' money?
One has to conclude that this particular budget does not do that. The government has not done that. We have to ask, how likely is it that the government will manage $187 billion using these seven concepts? I would suggest that probably the answer is, no it will not.
I want to go now to the third point that has to do with the single use of medical devices and the reuse of single use medical devices. I am not an expert in this particular field so I am going to be reading in rather complete detail what has been said.
What kind of devices are we talking about?
Single use devices that come into contact with blood or normally sterile body cavities by penetrating the skin or mucous membrane, such as cardiac catheters or urinary catheters.
The reuse of single use devices is different from the reuse of devices designed for multiple uses because single use devices were not intended to be reused. Thus, their reuse creates a number of potential risks that include poor functioning after multiple uses or reprocessing, as well as concerns about sterilizing and disinfecting medical devices properly. Other concerns include the lack of informed consent by the patient and the liability of the reuser should something go wrong because of reuse.
The main reason that single use devices are reused is to reduce costs. There are two factors here.
Members have probably heard the news that the SARS situation in China, the most recent one, deals precisely with this very issue we are talking about right now. It is not just one disease we are talking about but other diseases as well in relation to single use devices.
The second point has to do with the cost involved. Why is there a preoccupation with the cost of reusing a single use medical device? If we had taken the $250 million that was spent on the ad scam program and put it into specifically this kind of area, that would have helped many people in not subjecting them to reused single use medical devices. We have some critical issues here that are very significant. It is stated that:
Because the reuse of single use devices can put the health and safety of Canadians at risk and because Health Canada is one of the entities responsible for protecting the health and safety of Canadians, we expected that it would take action to deal with this issue.
It is further stated:
While we recognize that this issue is a shared responsibility among various jurisdictions and professions, it is important that Health Canada as the federal regulator take action to manage the health and safety risks related to the reuse of single use medical devices.
That would have been expected. The Auditor General went on to say:
However, we found that Health Canada has not developed a position on managing the risks related to reuse of single use devices, although very recently it began examining its authority to regulate reuse practices. As a result, Canadians are not being protected from the health and safety risks created by the reuse of single use devices. Canada's failure to develop a position on this issue has created a regulatory vacuum.
This is pretty serious stuff. Health Canada has known about this for at least 10 years, and it is still talking about jurisdictional questions. Now it is going to re-examine this. The response to the Auditor General's recommendation was that by the year 2005 there may be something in place. How many people are going to be subject to having these single use medical devices inserted into their bodies, running the risk of contacting serious diseases and complications?
The time to act has passed. We need to act as quickly as possible now. These are very serious implications. I am so happy that we have an Auditor General who is not afraid to talk about these kinds of things and draw them to our attention. There is a person who is accountable, doing her job, doing it with probity and being prudent, accountable and transparent in what she is doing.
People ask where the trouble lies. Does it lie with the ministers who are in charge? Does it lie with the Prime Minister? Does it lie with the professionals? Does it lie with the taxpayers? Does it lie with the House? With the power that has been concentrated in the Prime Minister's office and with the fact that virtually every member on the government's side of the House can be whipped into voting against the wishes of their constituencies, there can be no other conclusion. These kinds of problems can be taken straight back to the very top of this organization, which is in the Prime Minister's office.
The time has come for us and for all Canadians to look very clearly at the way the government has been running for the last 10 years and why the Auditor General has come up with the kinds of conclusions and observations that she has. For these reasons that I have just mentioned, I cannot support Bill C-30.
The time has come for a new prime minister, a Conservative prime minister, a prime minister who will manage the affairs of the country and of the government with probity, with adherence to the highest principles and ideals, with prudence, demonstrating skill and good judgment in the use of the resources of the taxpayer money and the many resources that we as Canadians have, with the economy, with getting the right amount of resources of the right quality and quantity and delivering at the right time, in the right place and at the lowest cost.
He will be a prime minister who will be efficient so that the minimum resources used to achieve a given quantity and quality of output will be the ones that are used, not a surplus that is unnecessary. He will deal with effectiveness and will manage with effectiveness, that is, the extent to which the outcomes of an activity match the objective or the intended effects of that activity. When we say we want to do something in a program, we will get the results with transparency. The operation will be in a manner that is clear and easy to understand, and we will all know what is being done, how much it costs, who will do it, why they will do it and their competence to do it.
Finally, he will be a prime minister who will be accountable and will recognize the obligation to render an account and accept the responsibility for one's actions, both in terms of the results obtained and the means used.
These are tremendous challenges. One would look at that and ask if there a human being alive who could actually do this in its entirety. The answer is, we can try.
I remember so clearly a philosopher professor who said that we should all look at perfection and that is the way we should go. I have talked about seven concepts that are very useful. I submit that a Conservative prime minister, in particular the leader of the Conservative Party, would do that. We need to strive for that perfection. However, when we have a Prime Minister who is not trying to do that, then we need a change.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 3:30 p.m.
Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to continue my presentation on Bill C-30, the budget implementation bill.
Before oral question period, I had said that this bill created three imbalances. First, the obvious fiscal imbalance; second, the social deficit perpetuated by the budget tabled this past March and its implementation through Bill C-30; third, the environmental imbalance created by the federal government with Bill C-30.
I have spoken at length on the shortfall Quebec has experienced and continues to experience, particularly since 1994, as a result of the reduction in transfer payments to the provinces. This prevents Quebec, and of course other provinces, from delivering the health care and services that are essential for the well-being of our taxpayers.
As well, the conclusion that there is a tax imbalance is based on research carried out by Jacques Léonard, former president of the Quebec treasury board. Some days or weeks ago, the third component of this research was released, an analysis on the evolution of the four key federal government transfer programs, namely transfer payments, equalization payments, the employment insurance program, and even the old age pensions.
The main conclusions about this federal reality indicate that federal government revenues have risen 45%, while transfer payments to Quebec and the provinces have increased a mere 1.9%. Taken as a dollar amount per capita, federal revenues have increased $1569, and transfer payments for health, education and social programs have dropped $34.
Some members of this House, Bloc Quebecois MPs, were part of the Léonard Committee. I am thinking of my colleagues from Lotbinière—L'Érable, Joliette and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot specifically. The committee recently revealed one other finding: it reached the conclusion that the financial effort the federal government devotes to transfer payments to Quebec for health services has decreased 40%.
This fiscal imbalance is a natural occurrence, but one not acknowledged by the federal government, since it considers itself to be a new government. There is a shortfall for Quebec, no doubt about it.
There is another aspect to this growing social deficit. While it might have been expected that the government would eliminate the injustice which it created itself by changes in the employment insurance rules, nothing in this budget does anything to repair the gaps pointed out many times by the Bloc Quebecois, not only in this House, but with the workers. These gaps mean that the workers in seasonal industries are penalized. Young people and women are penalized by these changes in the EI system.
Workers pay their premiums to the EI system, but very often they cannot receive benefits. If the employment insurance fund were in a deficit position, that might be understood. But the accumulated surpluses in the EI fund are over $45 billion. That is three times as much as the Chief Actuary of Canada judged normal and sufficient to meet the needs.
She indicated that $15 billion would have been enough. The fund is in a surplus position. We have asked many times—there was a consensus among opposition parties on this—that the employment insurance fund be independent, that it be managed by the employees and employers and not by the government. Experience has shown us that the government manages this fund badly and that makes one think of a kind of theft.
The premiums are being raised. At present, they are $1.98 per $100, while the rate that would lead to equilibrium is $1.81. Clearly, there is overcharging, and that is why there are surpluses in the EI fund. Unfortunately, citizens are not able to enjoy the benefits.
Actually, part 5 of the bill before us today perpetuates the fact that it is the federal government which sets the premium rate. As I indicated earlier, we know that this rate often exceeds the rate of $1.81 that would ensure a balance. So, there is a social injustice created by an employment insurance fund that is far from benefiting the workers who contributed to it.
We could have expected the government to deal with another issue, namely social housing. The hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who is here right now, reviewed this issue with the hon. member for Terrebonne—Blainville. We would have liked the recent budget to provide for a reinvestment of some $2 billion. We would have liked to see 1% of the federal budget earmarked for social housing.
The reason is that in years past the Liberal government confirmed the withdrawal that had already been announced by the Conservative government in 1993.
One cannot speak from both sides of the mouth. On November 22, 1993, the current Prime Minister replied to the national coalition on housing. Here is what he said about reinvesting in social housing.
—I want to be absolutely clear—
The word “clear” was already part of the present Prime Minister's vocabulary, 11 years ago.
—I want to be absolutely clear that a Liberal government would commit to stable and guaranteed funding for cooperative and not for profit housing.
Things stood clear in 1993. The present Prime Minister, who was to become finance minister, committed to stable funding for the cooperative and not for profit housing sector. What happened after 1993, when the present Prime Minister became finance minister? Well, he literally stopped funding social housing.
There is another important date in 1990. At that time, the present Prime Minister, who became finance minister, shared his intentions and his vision on social housing.
In May 1990, in a report of the national Liberal caucus task force on social housing, the present Prime Minister stated, and I quote:
The Mulroney government has, from the start, cut housing programs and budgets. It has dumped its responsibilities onto the provinces.
That is what the present Prime Minister said in 1990.
The Mulroney government has cut housing programs and budgets. It has dumped its responsibilities onto the provinces without giving them the corresponding financial means. And it has been insensitive to the dire needs of thousands of Canadian households.
That was what the present Prime Minister was telling us back in May 1990. However, he has been the one mainly responsible for disinvestment in housing.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 1:10 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Before proceeding to questions and comments, I would like to clarify for members of the House that the House is debating the amendment to the motion for third reading of Bill C-30 proposed by the hon. member for Toronto—Danforth, seconded by the hon. member for Scarborough East, that the question be now put.
Questions or comments? The hon. member for Prince George—Peace River.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 12:05 p.m.
Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity today to briefly speak on Bill C-30, an implementation bill with respect to the government's most recently introduced budget. Sometimes the debate can seem to be somewhat ritualistic.
However, I am very pleased and I want to congratulate the member for Palliser for zeroing in on the issue of child poverty. If the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, a supposedly Liberal member, is satisfied with this government's record in terms of reducing child poverty, then it illustrates, better than almost any other public policy issue that one could use, how little difference there is today between the Liberal government opposite, the no longer Liberal government opposite and the no longer Progressive Conservative opposition party.
I listened carefully to the words that were uttered by the member for Scarborough East. In itself it is telling that we have now within this so-called Liberal government a parliamentary secretary specifically assigned to advance, and I would presume accelerate, the rate of privatization taking place under this so-called Liberal government.
I listened to his speech on Bill C-30. I then listened a few moments later to the speech by the member for Prince George—Peace River. If we went back 10 years ago, his party was significantly different in terms of its policies and priorities than the Liberal government was at the time. However, when we listened to those two speeches side by side in juxtaposition in the House this morning, I would defy anyone to see any fundamental difference between those two political parties.
Canadians need a serious progressive alternative. That progressive government in power would have brought in a very different set of priorities in the budget we are now debating, and the implementation bill that is now before us.
I just about fell off my chair when I heard the prescriptions that were offered up by the parliamentary secretary for privatization to genuinely improve the well-being of Canadians. No wonder we are making so little progress in tackling child poverty. We heard the member for Scarborough East say that we needed to grow the pie. When did we last hear that as a banner headline all over this country? It came from one of the contestants for the leadership of the no longer Progressive Conservative Party.
The contention that Canadians are better off today because this Liberal government has pursued vigorously and conscientiously the policies advanced by the Conservative Party is exactly what is wrong with what is happening.
We heard that there were two ways to increase productivity. One is to have people working harder and the other is to have people working smarter. I want to take those two prescriptions and relate them right down on the ground at the grassroots level in my riding of Halifax as to what is happening in the lives of a good many Canadians. They are supposed to be better off as a result of this government's pursuit of those ultra conservative prescriptions to supposedly to do something to ensure that we eliminate child poverty, as this Parliament unanimously resolved to do in 1989.
Let me take first the example of child care. Child care workers in Halifax are working their guts out for terrible pay, and they cannot work any harder, despite the fact that they have taken the training that has allowed them to work smarter.
Child care centres are closing because governments have not increased the per diem funding for those child care centres serving low income families that are also working their guts out, harder and harder, for poor pay. It has not been possible to increase their operating budgets because per diems have not increased. The result is that we have child care centres closing all over the place. How that works to support working people in being able to better support their families and work harder and work smarter, I do not know.
I want to speak about the medical residents, just one example of health care workers in my riding who are working their guts out. They are often working 36 hour and 40 hour shifts to try to meet the needs of patients because hospitals are under-resourced and short-staffed, because the government has taken tens of billions of dollars out of our health care system. Yet the parliamentary secretary talks about people needing to work smarter and harder. Those medical residents with whom I met in the QE II Hospital in my riding on Sunday during a medical residents awareness week initiative could not work any smarter or any harder.
And do we know what? Their families are paying a terrible penalty for how hard the residents are working and they themselves are paying a terrible penalty in massive debt loads. In one case, a husband and wife team of medical doctors has a debt load of $212,000 before they even begin to earn the kind of pay that people imagine medical doctors earning.
I want to speak about disabled persons in my riding. I met with a disabled man in my riding who has been absolutely breaking his back trying to get employment. He has been trying to generate employment with supposed support from programs that have been so shrunken down he cannot even get a foot in the door to get a job to work harder and work smarter.
I am going to finish with a reference to what is happening to our senior citizens. Last Friday I had the privilege of attending a tribute dinner to Dr. F. R. MacKinnon, Fred MacKinnon, who served the Province of Nova Scotia and the people of Canada as one of the most senior long-serving deputy ministers in this country. For 55 years he served the people of my province of Nova Scotia and the people of Canada, driving progressive social policy. He had a lot to say about what is happening to seniors today, particularly as they reach their pension years.
He says they have been robbed of adequate pensions because of the policies corporations have been allowed to pursue due to inadequate government regulations, because of privatization, and because of policies pursued by government itself. Because of privatization, because of contracting out, because of shipping out the risk and shrinking down the benefits, people do not have the kinds of pensions that allow them to deal with the everyday demands of life.
The fact that the parliamentary secretary, presumably speaking on behalf of the government, can be proud of the results of the government's implementation of these ultra-conservative policies is very instructive to the people of Canada as we go to the polls in the next few days or weeks, as we surely will.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
May 4th, 2004 / 11:20 a.m.
Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC
Madam Speaker, 20 minutes to comment on Bill C-30 is quite a lot. On the other hand, 20 minutes to comment on the budget and this government's financial management is not much.
In Bill C-30 we find elements related to equalization, and I shall look at those in particular. We also find elements related to the Canada Pension Plan, with which we agree, and elements related to the GST rebate for municipalities, with which we also agree.
However, we are worried about the fact that the health and education sectors were not included in the Liberal government's new approach. And in fact, we know the reason well. It is simply an election strategy; they are seeking to create an alliance above the provinces, above Quebec, in order to be able to get around provincial jurisdictions.
The final element is one which relates to extended deadlines, permitting the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to recover unpaid taxes over a 10-year period, and we agree with this as well, with the exception of the air security tax. We are opposed to this tax, whose need has not yet been demonstrated, unless it is to increase the already large, indeed amazing, surpluses of the federal government.
Looking at equalization in particular, it clearly illustrates the approach of this government. Whether headed by former Prime Minister Chrétien, or the new PM and former finance minister, when it comes down to it, their approach to real problems involves only cosmetic measures that do not solve the underlying problem. Instead, they increase it by giving the impression to Quebeckers, and to Canadians, that they are trying to respond to their concerns, yet this is totally false.
As far as the overall budget and the overall policy of this government is concerned, their approach is to increase Ottawa's power over the provinces, and particularly over the Government of Quebec.
Looking at the equalization formula proposed in Bill C-30, we see first of all that the new formula does not in any way respond to the concerns and needs that have been made clear on a number of occasions by the provinces, Quebec in particular.
Then, as far as the overall transfer of funds from the federal government to the provinces is concerned, we can see that it resolves nothing whatsoever. These continue to decrease year after year.
Finally, and this makes no useful contribution to the debate on fiscal imbalance, we see that there is too much money in Ottawa for the responsibilities the federal level has under the Constitution, and not enough in the provinces, and in Quebec in particular, particularly for health, but also for education and social housing.
Not only does this equalization formula resolve nothing, it also takes away, for the next five years, money from those who are institutionalized. Through the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister, the federal government has made a unilateral decision to impose this equalization formula on the provinces.
There is something totally aberrant about our having had to vote on Bill C-18 only a few weeks ago, to extend the present equalization formula for one year, supposedly to maintain payments during the negotiations with the provinces. So we voted on that bill—Bill C-18 if I recall correctly—and then, on March 24, along they came with a budget including a unilaterally imposed formula.
This is another example of the government's incompetence, of the fact that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and this House cannot make a decision. A few weeks ago, they probably really thought that they could reach an agreement with the provinces and Quebec before the election. They saw that the provinces were standing up and that Quebec had demands that it wanted the federal government to meet. Mr. Séguin, Quebec's Minister of Finance, repeated it when he tabled his budget, shortly after the federal government had done the same thing; if memory serves, this was on March 30. When the federal government realized that it could not easily impose its views on the provinces during negotiations and that an election was coming, it decided to unilaterally impose its formula for the next five years.
This decision alone is totally unacceptable. The Prime Minister talks about the democratic deficit. This is a perfect example. The federal government did not care at all about the provinces and it did not negotiate seriously. It did not take into consideration the provinces' needs and demands; instead, it unilaterally imposed its own vision. As I said, this alone makes Bill C-30 unacceptable to the Bloc Quebecois.
The federal government did not at all take into consideration the concerns of the provinces. Most of the changes made by the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister and the Liberal government of Canada are cosmetic.
The government also did not take into consideration the unanimous proposal made by the provinces, whereby the equalization formula should be based on the performances of the ten provinces, as opposed to those of five provinces, as is currently the case, since this formula excludes one rich province, with the result that Quebec is losing several hundred millions, if not a few billion dollars.
This should have been taken into account, as was the case in the past. This is not something new. For several years, the federal government's equalization formula was based on all ten provinces. It is probably when this formula began to benefit the provinces and Quebec, as it should, that the federal government changed the rules of the game to ensure that it would not have to pay too much money in these areas of responsibility.
Property tax was not considered an element of the tax base as it should have been. In the budget, it was suggested that property value would be taken into account when determining the wealth of the various provinces. In British Columbia, property value is extremely high. So, that would have a huge impact on Quebec. It would mean somewhere around $400 million in equalization.
Therefore, it was suggested that property value would be taken into account. That would be the case, for instance, in British Columbia. However, public servants who appeared before the Standing Committee on Finance told us that it would not really be done that way since experts—probably friends of the government—had argued that the value market could not be factored in, as it would lead to bias, distortions, and things like that. So, a halfway compromise was reached, but, in reality, absolutely nothing was solved.
I hope B.C. residents are shocked to realize they were used in that way. In Quebec, we are shocked because our demands and requirements were not met. Whichever way you look at it, Quebec stands to loose over $1 billion. Not only have we lost $1 billion, but we will continue to lose money through transfers.
Let me give the House some figures to illustrate what is really going on. In 2001-02, Quebec's equalization payments totalled $4.690 billion. In 2002-03, they decreased to $3.985 billion, as seen in the budget plan, a $705 million drop. In 2003-04, we are down to $3.802 billion, after another drop of $183 million. In 2004-05, we will get $3.761 billion, and that includes the $150 million in fiscal rebalancing the government has announced in the budget, which is the only real increase. In fact, it is not an increase at all, but a reduction of the decrease Quebec feared. So, for these three years, we are expecting a reduction of close to but not quite $1 billion in equalization payments from the federal government to the Government of Quebec.
Compared to the October 2003 estimates, however, these figures tell the whole sorry tale. In October 2003, transfers to Quebec were estimated at $4.662 billion, as I said, but now they are estimated at $3.985 billion, a $677 million decrease in one year.
In 2003-04, in October 2003 to be more specific—less than five or six months ago—Quebec expected to get $4.525 billion in transfers. Now, according to the budget plan, we are down to $3.802 billion, a $723 million drop.
We should accept this? That is impossible. For people who defend Quebec's interests, it is impossible to accept this. This year, with the shenanigans that the government has announced—the cosmetic part—there is a slight increase of $70 million, but, once again, this is compared to a decrease of $41 million. Thus, the government simply alleviated the decrease, thinking it would distribute a goodie to the provinces, and to Quebec in particular. In total, from 2002 to 2005, the decrease will be $1.330 billion. This is totally unacceptable.
The parliamentary secretary tells us that equalization increases and decreases, depending on economic times. The problem is, this is the only existing formula that takes the needs of the provinces into account.
In the past, the federal transfer was mostly based on the needs and investments of the provinces. For example, the Canada assistance plan ensured that, for every dollar put in by Quebec, the federal government would put in a dollar. Since we had—and still have—poverty problems that were slightly higher than the Canadian average, Quebec would be imaginative and invest based to its people's need. The federal government had to follow; it was the rule.
The federal government changed the rules of the game with the Canada social transfer. Now, it is not based on the needs, but on the percentage of the population. Consequently, whatever amount is transferred to the provinces, Quebec is always receiving a little less than 25%.
Within the Canadian federation, equalization is the only way to take the needs of the provinces into account. However, we told you that the formula is inadequate. The provinces, particularly Quebec and the Minister of Finance of Quebec, said this several times. The federal government cannot deny it. Even recently, I believe that Minister Couillard said that the fiscal imbalance problem was a parasite in the relations between Quebec and Ottawa. This is the reality. Liberals can turn a blind eye and put their heads in the sand, but Quebeckers are not fooled by this situation.
If equalization does not meet the provinces' needs, the formula will have to be reviewed. At present, the transfers for health and social programs are not in keeping with the needs. They are calculated on a per capita basis, and that is that. That is the greatest injustice in the year we have just completed.
On one hand, the federal government makes a lot of fuss about announcements it has already made three times. It is like the case of highway 175—and they think we are fooled. The Prime Minister is holding off the election call so he can make announcements that have already been made. We have heard that they will be going to the Chicoutimi region, probably, I suppose, to help the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, who must be in serious difficulties. They will announce again, for the third time, the investment in highway 175. It has already been announced by Mr. Chrétien and by Mr. Landry. They think that people will not see it is all a flimsy fabrication. Probably they will do the same thing for highway 30. I am just waiting for that. The election call has been delayed so they can announce again the things that have already been announced three or four times.
That $2 billion in transfer payments to the provinces promised by Mr. Chrétien, which the former minister of finance pretended not to be able to give, just like the new Minister of Finance, in order to set the scene economically and financially to enable the new Prime Minister to announce it, has finally been announced. It has even been passed in the House, finally. Thus, $2 billion in transfer payments will go to the provinces, on a per capita basis. Quebec will receive a little under 25% of that, around $460 or $470 million.
At the same time, we are told that, for the same period, there will be $2 billion less in equalization. They would have us believe that they have taken $2 billion away but that the same amount will be given back in transfers. Now look: Quebec receives half of the equalization budget. We therefore have lost half of the $2 billion amount, while we get $470 million through the Canada health and social transfer.
No one is fooled. The Atlantic provinces and Quebec have been the big losers in this Liberal shell game. People know it.
Overall, transfers are decreasing in amount. To give one example, a figure that came out last week in the committee chaired by Jacques Léonard, who was president of Quebec's treasury board. He is very familiar with the public finances of Quebec but also has a very clear picture of federal public finances. It was found that, between 1994-95 and 2002-03, the revenues of this government—with the present PM as Minister of Finance—rose 45%. That is nothing to be sneezed at when there is so much talk of belt-tightening.
Obviously, they used part of this money to increase their bureaucracy. Operating expenditures increased by 39%. I would remind hon. members that, at the time, inflation was around 16% and the population of Canada increased by a little less than 4%. If memory serves, the figure was 3.9%. So the increase was not because of increased needs.
In fact, the needs did increase in the provinces, but not the needs for federal bureaucracy. It was merely a Liberal strategy, of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and all those who followed him, to keep on building up the power of the central state in order to create a unitary state, by strangling the provinces financially.
The proof of this is that, while revenues increased by 45%, while bureaucratic expenses increased by 39%, government transfer payments to Quebec decreased by 7.6%. That is the truth. That is the reality. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.
The machine was beefed up, they made themselves indispensable, and they strangled Quebec financially. They will pay for that at the next election, if only they get their act together and call one.
They are wondering, “Will one week be enough to try and convince Quebeckers and the rest of Canada that we are a good government?” Well, of course not! They have been there 10 years. Taking stock of those 10 years, we realize that in the absence of a strong opposition, they are simply all over the map.
Therefore, in terms of overall transfers to Quebec, we are looking at a net loss of 7.6%. And just to give you some idea, with regard to health, when our present Prime Minister became Minister of Finance, for every tax dollar taken from our pockets, in Quebec as in the rest of Canada, he would transfer 4.5¢ to the provinces. Today however, for every tax dollar he gets, he transfers a mere 2.7¢. Which means that he takes in more and more money, while giving out proportionately less and less to the provinces and to Quebec.
What this means is that, ever since the Liberals have come to power, ever since the former finance minister and now Prime Minister has held the reins in finance, Quebec has been cut by a total of $10 billion. This represents a drop of $1,300. Small wonder then that the provinces and Quebec have been hard pressed to make ends meet. The sheer fact of having been able to eliminate the deficit is a miracle in itself under such circumstances.
This cannot go on forever, though. It is already no longer the case in a number of provinces. Ontario is in a deficit position, B.C. as well. Most of the Atlantic provinces have deficits. As for Quebec, it is experiencing—to use the finance minister's expression—some difficulties with its budget. This year, with sales of some assets, it has managed to balance the budget, but assets cannot keep on being sold.
The responsibility for this lies with the federal government. In this case, neither Mr. Charest nor Mr. Séguin are responsible. They have been strangled financially by this government, as the previous Quebec government was, and as the provincial governments currently are. We have a strike in Newfoundland, and a strike in the B.C. health system. There is not a single politician who would be in favour of a strike in the health sector, knowing what public opinion is on this. Yet they have to make hard decisions.
Having been involved with unions, I can tell you that I have seen governments forced to make hard choices. Sometimes they have to stir up confrontations, as was the case in Newfoundland and British Columbia. They are, however, not the ones responsible for the situation; the federal government is. There is nothing whatsoever in this budget to suggest that any corrections will be forthcoming in the next few years. In my opinion, the people of Quebec are going to have a very clear understanding of just how much it will be in their interests to send as many Bloc Quebecois members to Ottawa as possible in the upcoming election.
So that is what there is in Bill C-30. What is not in the bill, and in the budget, is equally deplorable. As far as employment insurance is concerned, $45 billion has been diverted, while people on the North Shore and in other areas are starving. For months, forestry workers in the northern part of Lanaudière have not seen a cheque. The sawmills have suffered because of the softwood lumber crisis, which is not settled even though we won. The Americans have still not opened their borders to us, and we have not got back the $2 billion they collected illegally.
Employment insurance reform is necessary, and the money is there. Now, on the eve of the election, the Liberals say it is coming. Let them table the legislation, since they are taking their time to call the election. We will vote in favour of a substantial improvement in employment insurance. If the Liberals do not do this, people will remember that, in 2000, the President of the Privy Council went to the Saguenay and told the construction workers, “We are going to improve the employment insurance system”, and then nothing was done.
I could go on and on. I have examples concerning families, the guaranteed income supplement, the sponsorship scandal, and gun control. And as for the sales of Petro-Canada stock, we cannot foresee exactly what will happen with that. Commissions will be paid out. That is worth about $3 billion. What brokerage firm will be hired to sell this stock? Probably some friends of the government. And so it will be exactly the same thing that happened in the sponsorship scandal.
Not only are the federal Liberals—the Liberal Party of Canada—more interested in defending the interests of the Liberal Party than defending federalism, but worse yet, they defend the private interests of certain friends of the government. Regarding the sale of Petro-Canada stock, we want to know who is going to sell the stock and how the brokerage firms will be chosen.
I did not have time to address the issue of tax havens and CSL International. I do not know if members had an opportunity to watch the program, Enjeux . The headquarters in Barbados is just an empty shell, and that is close to the line of illegality, in my opinion. But we will dig into that at another time. With all of this, I simply want to say that the real democratic deficit is the fact that Quebec is being strangled. The only answer for that is the sovereignty of Quebec, and the coming election will be a step toward that sovereignty.