Unanticipated Surpluses Act

An Act respecting the allocation of unanticipated surpluses and to amend the Income Tax Act

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

Not active, as of Oct. 7, 2005
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

The enactment authorizes the Minister of Finance to make, in respect of fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, certain payments out of the annual surplus that is in excess of the sum of $3 billion and the amount paid in respect of that fiscal year under An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, being chapter 36 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005. It also authorizes the Minister of Finance to make, in respect of fiscal years 2007-2008 to 2009-2010, certain payments out of the annual surplus that is in excess of $3 billion. The enactment allocates the amounts authorized to be paid as follows: one third to tax relief, one third to spending priorities and the remainder to reduce the accumulated deficit for the fiscal year.

The enactment also provides a mechanism for increases to the basic personal amounts under the Income Tax Act for taxation years 2007 to 2010 in addition to those implemented in the Budget Implementation Act, 2005, so long as the increases are considered to be fiscally sustainable.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 24th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I see the hon. member across the way is displaying his charm once more.

I also think the hon. member understands clearly that the call for the election and, ultimately, if there is an election caused, it will be the opposition members who will have to take responsibility since they will be voting to dissolve Parliament and we will be voting to sustain Parliament in order to continue the work that I will now lay out.

This afternoon we will continue with the opposition motion.

On Friday we will call consideration of the Senate amendments to Bill C-37, the do not call bill; report stage and third reading of Bill S-36 respecting rough diamonds; report stage and third reading of Bill C-63, respecting the Canada Elections Act; and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation.

We will return to this work on Monday, adding to the list the reference before second reading of Bill C-76, the citizenship and adoption bill; and second reading of Bill C-75, the public health agency legislation.

Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days. There are some three dozen bills before the House or in committee on which the House I am sure will want to make progress in the next period of time. They will include the bill introduced yesterday to implement the 2005 tax cuts announced on November 14; Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-67, the surplus legislation; Bill C-61, the marine bill; Bill C-72, the DNA legislation; Bill C-46, the correctional services bill; Bill C-77, the citizenship prohibitions bill; Bill C-60, the copyright legislation; Bill C-73, the Telecom bill; Bill C-60 respecting drug impaired driving; Bill C-19, the competition legislation; Bill C-50 respecting cruelty to animals; Bill C-51, the judges legislation; Bill C-52, the fisheries bill; Bill C-59 respecting Investment Canada; Bills C-64 and C-65 amending the Criminal Code.

In addition, there are the supplementary estimates introduced in October that provide spending authority for a wide variety of services to the Canadian public and we the government would certainly like to see this passed.

Supply
Government Orders

November 17th, 2005 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss the opposition motion presented by the leader of the New Democratic Party which proposes that the Prime Minister should ask the Governor General to dissolve Parliament during the week of January 2, 2006, and set the date for the election for February 13, 2006.

I must admit that it is a bit disappointing that the NDP has not put forward a substantive motion for debate today. Last time around, the NDP took a constructive approach to its opposition days by putting forward issues that matter to Canadians. For example, Canadians had the benefit of a full discussion on such matters as environmental aspects of automobile emission standards, access to employment insurance, which is obviously a big concern in my riding and in other rural communities across the country, and the health risks of trans fatty acids.

Today, the NDP wants to talk about scheduling, about how to ignore constitutional convention and speed up the next general election by a mere eight weeks.

Clearly, the priorities of opposition members have changed. Today, they are more interested in procedural tactics rather than substantive issues that Canadians want this Parliament to address. Opposition parties are not interested in the process of governing. The opposition day motion today is really about manipulating the parliamentary and electoral calendar to serve what are clearly partisan interests.

The motion calls for an election to be held on February 13, 2006, despite the fact that the Prime Minister has already promised to call an election in early 2006.

The Prime Minister made that promise to Canadians last spring. We all know by now that an election will be called within 30 days of the final report and recommendations of the Gomery inquiry, which are scheduled to be tabled on February 1, 2006.

According to the Prime Minister's promise, the next election will be held in March, or early April at the latest. By then Canadians will be familiar with Justice Gomery's recommendations and will be able to benefit from a much improved legislative environment.

Nonetheless, that is not enough for the opposition. They want to hold an election in mid-February, which is 8 weeks, at the very most, before the date the Prime Minister proposed to all Canadians on national television.

An election any sooner would be held before Justice Gomery has completed his work, and therefore, before Canadians have all the answers regarding the problems with the sponsorship program and—equally important—regarding the measures that will need to be taken to prevent such a situation from happening again.

It will be incumbent upon the opposition parties to explain to Canadians why they are disrupting the work, not only of the government, but also of Parliament, in order to force a premature election in the middle of winter, thereby going against what most Canadians want. In fact, Canadians are still waiting for a good reason for all this.

The opposition parties are saying they do not have confidence in this government. Yet, they want to use opposition days to confirm their confidence for a just few more months. This flagrant contradiction highlights the purely political motivation behind today's motion.

As the government House leader indicated, some opposition members seem to believe that the notion that a government must have the confidence of the House was somehow divisible, that we could have confidence today, but tomorrow? Maybe in a few weeks they would see if they had lost confidence. The government would continue to govern, until they decided to put that loss of confidence into effect.

I said a couple of days ago that the opposition members seemed to think that confidence in government, in parliamentary terms, was like Christmas lights. We turn them on in the evening, we turn them off in the morning and then we put them away in January. Canadians will not be fooled by that simplistic analysis.

When the first minority government in 25 years was elected in 2004, the government committed to doing things differently in Parliament. Canadians expected us, as members of Parliament, to work constructively together. The record shows in many cases we have been very successful. In just 19 months we have delivered on a broad range of initiatives that will advance the interests of Canadians and continue to ensure Canada's place in the world.

For example, we passed legislation to implement the 10 year plan to strengthen health care. A federal adviser on wait times was appointed. Steps continue to be taken so we can work with the provinces to protect Canada's public health system.

We passed legislation to implement fundamental reforms to the equalization program. This balanced approach ensured that all Canadians could benefit from social services and enjoy the same quality of life, regardless of the province in which they live. These improvements mean additional resources, additional moneys being transferred to my province, the province of New Brunswick. We already have seen an improvement not only in social services, education and health care, but improvements in infrastructure as well. The government and people of New Brunswick benefit by this cooperative approach.

We passed legislation respecting civil marriage to respect the fundamental values of equality and religious freedoms as well.

We passed legislation to implement a new deal for cities and communities. This unprecedented initiative brings together the federal government, provincial governments and municipalities to ensure that the infrastructure of our communities is responsive to local needs, culturally vibrant and environmentally sustainable. Again, small rural communities in my constituency benefit from this type of initiative.

We transferred, for example, the full refund of GST paid by municipalities as simply a down payment on the new deal for cities and communities. If the government of New Brunswick would organize itself to negotiate a deal with the federal government, municipalities in my constituency and throughout New Brunswick, as well as small rural communities, would benefit from this important initiative.

We passed legislation to implement our climate change plan and meet our Kyoto commitments. In two weeks, Canada will begin hosting the conference of the parties to the Kyoto Protocol in Montreal to make further progress on our important climate change commitments.

To ensure Canadians have the best opportunities to flourish, we passed legislation to implement early childhood learning and child care agreements, which we have reached with many provinces.

To keep Canadians safe, we passed legislation to protect them from pornography and Internet luring.

I am proud of the record of this Parliament so far. We were able to pass a budget bill that further accelerated our priorities in public transit, in housing, in post-secondary education, in national defence and in foreign aid.

We made major changes to improve the employment insurance system, something that is very important to seasonal industries in my constituency. We removed many of the disincentives to work, which created a bizarre situation where a worker in a seasonal industry would go to work for what might be a shortened work period for reasons beyond the control of the worker. If the lobster season was not as productive that week, if the weather did not allow a certain harvest to take place, the workers were disadvantaged by a system which calculated employment insurance based on recent weeks as opposed to best weeks. We changed that in this Parliament and the government has served the needs of seasonal industries and seasonal workers very well, certainly in my constituency.

Contrary to the opposition parties, I believe there is still much work to be done. A premature election could jeopardize over 40 bills currently in the House, bills that would provide important benefits to the well-being of Canadians and to the competitiveness of Canada.

For example, Bill C-67, the unanticipated surpluses act, reflects the government's balanced approach to fiscal management by providing a proportional allocation of unanticipated surpluses to permanent tax reductions, targeted investments and debt relief. Our ability to allocate surpluses is a direct result of the sound financial stewardship of the Minister of Finance and of his predecessors.

Bill C-68, Canada's Pacific gateway act, provides the foundations for expanding our trade with the growing economies of countries like China and India and other Asian countries. This has been a priority for our government. The government of British Columbia has urged us to take action on the Pacific gateway. This is what the government is doing to ensure that the Canadian economy as a whole can prosper by the great opportunities that these markets present.

Bill C-11, the whistleblower's bill, is currently before the Senate and provides vital protection for employees who courageously come forward to blow the whistle on wrongdoing in their workplace. The bill reflects the hard work of many members of Parliament, members from Vegreville—Wainwright, Winnipeg Centre and Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques. I do not think those members want Bill C-11 to die prematurely.

Bill C-37, the do not call list, is also before the Senate. It reached the Senate through the support of all parties. Jeopardizing this work for the sake of electioneering at Christmas time does not benefit Canadians.

Earlier this month the government supplementary estimates requesting from Parliament the funds needed to implement the programs that allow federal initiatives to operate. These supplementary estimates include additional investments for defence, immigration, climate change, infrastructure, public security, the health of first nations and federal-provincial partnerships.

For example, the estimates include $15 million to implement the veterans' charter; $36.4 million to alleviate and prevent homelessness; over $230 million for investments in first nations communities and first nations peoples; $102.9 million to mitigate the impact of BSE; $34 million to aid the softwood lumber industry; $74 million for the agricultural policy framework; and, $1.1 billion to enhance Canada's national defence.

This is only a sampling of the productive agenda the government has for the next few months and the government continues to move forward this fall to deliver on our commitments.

Next week we will have, for example, a first ministers meeting with aboriginal leaders in British Columbia to address the challenges faced by our first nations. First nations leaders have stressed how important this meeting is for their communities. It would be the responsibility of opposition parties to justify jeopardizing the results of that meeting with a premature election.

Later this month the Minister of Justice will unveil a package targeted at gun crime, which we all know is an important challenge for our cities and for the safety of our communities. This Monday the Minister of Finance presented his fall economic and fiscal update, which proposes significant tax reductions for Canadians and a prosperity plan for Canada's future.

Over the next five years more than $30 billion in tax relief is proposed and over 95% of that would be delivered through personal tax reductions. In addition, significant investments are proposed to create access to post-secondary education and encourage lifelong learning so Canadians can continue to be competitive workers in the global marketplace. Combined with investments and research, innovation and social capital, the economic update sets the stage for accelerated growth and prosperity for the nation.

It is important to highlight that student associations across the country were particularly pleased with the investments in access to post-secondary education. In my constituency I am fortunate enough to have Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. The student groups there had spoken to me many times about the heavy financial burden of a post-secondary education. The measures announced by the Minister of Finance will help the students at Mount Allison University.

These measures will help students in my riding who are registered at the University of Moncton, for example. In fact, students across the country will benefit from these very important measures.

This is where the government's focus has been on governing. Canadians are tired of politicians playing partisan games. It is little wonder that cynicism about politicians is on the rise when people spend more time worrying about the timing of the next election than advancing the interest of their constituents in this Parliament.

Government members are here to represent their constituents and to work on making this Parliament successful. I have outlined the number of important initiatives that we have before us. We know there is an impending election that will follow the finance report of Justice Gomery. In the meantime Canadians expect us to roll up our sleeves and to get to work on delivering the commitments that we have all made to our electors.

The election will be at some point in early 2006. That was the Prime Minister's commitment. However, Canadians also want answers from the Gomery commission's final report before going back to the polls. That also was the Prime Minister's commitment. In the meantime, all parliamentarians should spend time working on the legislation that is before the House, that is in committee and that is in the Senate. They should be looking at many interesting private members' initiatives that are coming before Parliament.

In closing, I believe that Canadians want us to work together on what concerns them and on improving their lives and the lives of their families and fellow citizens. They hope the work we do here in Parliament will improve their quality of life. They do not want the debates to end in the partisan bickering that does little to honour this Parliament.

Supply
Government Orders

November 17th, 2005 / 11 a.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I suggest there are a number of fundamental problems with today's opposition motion. I will point to a few of them.

First, it is fundamentally inconsistent with the basic principles of a parliamentary democracy which in fact have guided us throughout the history of this institution. It is a serious matter to change long-standing principles and practices with no consideration to the future members of the House of Commons.

The opposition parties essentially are willing to play some political and partisan games with our constitutional conventions. We can hear them laughing across the way. It is exactly what Canadians expect from the opposition parties when talking about our Constitution, nothing more than heckling and laughing. Those parties have proven they do not have any respect for the Constitution.

I want to make a few points and then during the question and answer period we can allow the members opposite to stand and rant and rave, as we expect they will. Nonetheless, I would like the opportunity to make a few points.

We have seen a time when members have worked quite well and quite cooperatively in the House, even in the face of challenges with what the opposition parties were looking to do. Canadians ultimately want to see a House that works on behalf of their initiatives. The House of Commons needs to work on behalf of the citizens.

Canadians want their members of Parliament to work on public business, not the private ambitions of any one party leader. Canadians want parliamentarians to debate the issues that are important Canadians, to address their daily concerns and what they are worried about. In fact, Canadians have not been getting legislation or policy that might make their lives better, more prosperous perhaps, and secure. What they are getting from the opposition parties is endless partisan posturing, political games and positioning for electoral advantage, quite frankly.

Members opposite always quote Canadians to suit their particular position. I have talked to Canadians and they have said that things in Parliament are not going well and members are yelling and screaming at each other all the time. I continue to make the point that we put forward and passed what I believe are important initiatives. But we have a situation now where the opposition parties, in particular the leader of the NDP, has put forward a motion that in fact does not fit with the constitutional requirements of this country.

I have to say that it is not only I who might say that. I am not alone in asserting that today's motion is a violation of long-standing democratic principles and practices of Parliament. The official opposition has said, and I believe the opposition House leader just said that the government needs to have the confidence of the House. That is absolutely correct. That is the way our system works. It is based on long-standing democratic principles.

The opposition parties collectively, since they are all supporting this particular motion, through the leader of the NDP are saying they want to vote non-confidence in the government today, but they want to have the consequences essentially some time in January because it suits their political purpose. They are saying they do not want an election during Christmas, but they want to vote non-confidence today and have the election later on. In the meantime, while the House remains in session, the House presumably would be passing important initiatives for Canadians that we put forward as a government and they would be voting confidence in the government, all the while indicating that they have no confidence in the government. The opposition wants to defeat the government, but not for another month and a half or so.

Parliament does not work that way and Canadians understand that. We cannot divide confidence. Confidence is not divisible. It cannot be cut up into little pieces and apportioned over different periods of time saying, “It is okay to pass this piece of legislation which is a confidence bill and we understand that. We will pass that bill, but we do not have confidence in the government. The government should not be allowed to put forward programs that expend Canadian taxpayer money because we do not have confidence, but we will hang around while the government does that and then we will come back and say we do not have confidence in the government again in January”.

The government very clearly either needs to have the confidence of the House or not. It is very simple. It is the way the system has worked for a long time. It is very clear to Canadians that the government must have an ability to make decisions that have an impact on Canadians going forward and it must be able to do that knowing that it has the confidence of the House, or at least the confidence of the majority in the House. Even if there are people who do not have confidence in the government, if the government does not have the confidence of the majority of the House, then it is unable to function as a government.

The opposition parties, in what they are saying and what they are reporting in the media, are essentially saying that they do not have confidence in the government, but what they are afraid to do is to take responsibility for what that may cause.

When a motion of non-confidence is put on the floor of the House of Commons, when the opposition parties vote for that and the motion passes, there is an election. The opposition parties have to take responsibility for that. They should be able to say, “We are causing an election. It will be during Christmas. We are dragging Canadians back to the polls even though two-thirds of Canadians agree with what the Prime Minister is saying and his call for an election in the spring, within 30 days of Justice Gomery's report”.

The hon. member opposite said that we should wait another five months for that. He is perfectly free to say that, and I am not going to argue that position because that is the position the opposition parties have taken, but what they must do in that instance is put forward a motion of non-confidence, not a motion that suggests they do not have confidence now but the effect will take place some time in the future because they do not want to have an election at Christmas. They are trying to position themselves as not having to take responsibility for a Christmas election, but Canadians will know that is where the responsibility will lie.

The opposition parties have had an opportunity to put forward a motion of non-confidence. While they go out and speak to the media and say they do not have confidence, in the House, in this chamber, they had an opportunity to do that today and they did not. They had an opportunity to do it this past Tuesday and the opposition parties did not. They will have an opportunity to put forward that motion either next Tuesday or next Thursday. They have an opportunity to express no confidence in the government by voting down confidence bills or important bills to the government. They have an opportunity to express non-confidence and vote down the government's spending estimates which provide moneys for ongoing programs.

The fact that the opposition parties have sought not to do so clearly shows to Canadians that it is not just an issue of confidence that is truly at stake here, there are some partisan political considerations.

The leader of the New Democratic Party has cited a couple of constitutional experts, but the majority of constitutional experts have sided with the government's approach on this motion. The opposition parties continue to say that even in this minority government, the Prime Minister does not have the right to set the election date.

I will quote Ned Franks, a professor at Queen's University who said:

It is the Prime Minister's right and prerogative to go to the Governor General and ask for a dissolution of the House. It is not Parliament's. That's very clear.

David Docherty has said:

[The opposition's] saying, “We like the things you've done but unless you let the opposition decide when there's an election, we will pull the plug and not only not get things done that we think are important, but quite frankly, not get things done our supporters think are important”. In short, they simply can't do it. Parliamentary non-confidence is very specific. It's non-confidence when there is a vote of non-confidence. If it's a money bill, a speech from the throne, a matter the government says is confidence or there is a motion of non-confidence, those are the times that it's clear.

That is what we are saying. Canadians should not be fooled. There is a lot of political rhetoric that is swirling around this place, but the government either has the confidence or does not have the confidence of the House and it is up to the opposition parties to express that.

When Canadians elected their first minority government in 25 years they expected their representatives to work together. They still expect that. They also indicated they wanted us to continue working on their priorities, Canadian priorities, not the political priorities of opposition parties.

The Prime Minister made a commitment to Canadians. He went on national television and said that he would call an election within 30 days of the second Gomery report. He made that commitment and he wants to adhere to it.

I would say that Canadians want their government and their Parliament to deliver results and that is exactly what I have been trying to do and what the government has been doing. We have almost 90 bills before this Parliament.

The opposition parties have indicated that the House of Commons has no confidence in the government but the government has successfully met more than 40 confidence challenges and has been able to continue.

We have a strong record with respect to legislation passed on health care, equalization, a new deal for cities and communities, the offshore accords, climate change and early learning and child care. It is a strong record that we will take to the Canadian people and the Canadian people will decide.

We know Canadians want government and Parliament to focus on their priorities. They do not want a premature election. They do not want their representatives to be focused on political gamesmanship. They want the government and Parliament to deliver results, which is exactly what we are doing.

We are continuing to move forward with these priorities. The Minister of Finance has presented his fall economic and fiscal update that proposes further tax reductions for Canadians, a prosperity plan for Canada's future and it delivers more than $30 billion in tax relief in the current year and the next five years. Over 95% of that tax relief will be delivered through personal income tax.

Sadly, on the one opposition day available to the NDP in this supply cycle, it has chosen to focus on tearing this House down rather than building up this country. I have to say that the opposition day motion is an attempt by the opposition parties to demonstrate no confidence by not putting a motion before the House of Commons and saying that they have no confidence, but having that effect happen some time in January, is pretty convoluted. There has not been an expert out there who has been able to understand it.

We go back to the point of Gomery and when Gomery reports a second time. I know the opposition parties are arguing that can happen anyway and that this is all about some strategy.

The Prime Minister, when making that commitment to Canadians on national television, said that Canadians had the right to all of the facts of the Gomery Commission and all of his recommendations. However they also have a right to hear the response of the government and the response of the opposition parties before they cast their ballots. The opposition should be able to tell Canadians why they are afraid to wait for the final Gomery report before an election is called. If the opposition parties are not afraid, then they should be able to say that.

The commitment made by the Prime Minister was very clear. He said that within 30 days of the final report he would make that call. Obviously, it is not good enough for the opposition. They want an election to take place some time in February, which is four to eight weeks earlier than the Prime Minister's commitment to Canadians, but that is the choice they can make. What they should not do is try to hide behind some muddy motion that is not clear to Canadians.

We are talking about four to eight weeks and, if they want an election earlier than four to eight weeks, then they should stand in their place, put down their motion and have this place work the way it is supposed to work. If there is no confidence in the government, then drag Canadians back to the polls during the holiday season and have Canadians ultimately decide. That is the way it works.

The opposition parties are insisting that if we do not accept today's motion, then they will vote non-confidence in the government. They either have the confidence or not. We are focused on moving forward important government initiatives, not spending this day debating a motion that really has no effect.

As I have said, it is the opposition's right to defeat the government if they do not have confidence in the government, but let us consider for a moment the cost of defeating the government before we get through this legislative agenda.

We have Bill C-67, the unanticipated surplus bill; Bill C-68, the Canada Pacific gateway bill; the whistleblower bill in the Senate, which is essentially a bill that has come out of committee with a number of amendments that all parliamentarians provided; and Bill C-37, the do not call list, which is also before the Senate.

By defeating the government from passing its supplementary estimates, it would prevents $1.1 billion for the Department of National Defence, nearly $200 million for investments in public infrastructure and nearly $120 million to promote peace and stability in fragile states.

The opposition parties also jeopardize the possibility of real concrete action stemming from the first ministers' meeting with aboriginal leaders in Kelowna next week. Phil Fontaine, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations who is opposed to Mr. Layton's motion, said that Mr. Layton's pledge to defeat the government could erase “all of the good work that we've done”.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

November 3rd, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue the debate at third reading of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill.

When this is complete, we will consider reference before second reading of Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals. I expect that this business will carry over to tomorrow. We will then add to the list second reading of Bill S-36, respecting diamonds and second reading of Bill C-44, the transport bill.

When the House resumes on November 14, we will return to second reading of Bill C-68, the Pacific gateway bill; Bill C-66, the energy bill; and Bill C-67, the surpluses legislation.

We will also then return to any business from this week that is unfinished and if time permits, consider second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill.

November 15 and November 17, as the hon. member across the way would have known weeks ago had he been at the House leaders meeting, will be allotted days. On Tuesday evening, November 15, we will have a take note debate on the Canadian mission in Afghanistan.

Accordingly, I will propose the required motion pursuant to Standing Order 53.1(1). I move:

That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 15 on the subject of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Nunziata did not resign on that and the member knows that very well.

The member also said “squandered the money and nothing to show for it”. As I said earlier, thank God for immunity in this chamber. The member is known to be one of the greatest story tellers in this chamber.

Let me also tell him where we have indeed squandered this money. The national debt then was $562.9 billion. Today it is $499.9 billion. The debt to GDP ratio was 68.4%. Today it is 38.7%. Our foreign debt to GDP ratio was 43% in 1993. Today it is at 15%. The debt charges to revenues were then at 37.6% in 1995-96. Today they are at 17.2%. Unemployment, as I said, was 11.2%. Today it is at 6.7%. Over 3 million jobs have been created.

That is squandering? Take the almost $43 billion, the debt the government inherited from the true Progressive Conservative Party, and eliminate it. If the government takes almost 60-odd billion dollars that the debt has been retired by, that is over $100 billion. If that is fiction, then I must look that word up in their new dictionary. If we add over the past five years the $100 billion of tax relief to Canadians as a whole, that is almost $200 billion. Then add the various other investments in seniors with respect to GIS most recently, in housing, in health care, in Sports Canada, the offshore accord and the list goes on. These are not only hundreds of millions of dollars. These are billions of dollars.

We have the cities agenda, the GST rebates. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has applauded the Liberal government continuously for the support it has been getting.

Then there is national defence. I happen to be the chair of the national defence committee. Almost $13 billion has been invested in national defence. We need to do more because now our obligations internationally have changed. If there ever were a time to support our men and women in uniform, this is the time to do it. I do not want to get off topic there.

Crimes rates, which were also very important, back then were about 7.5% to 7.8%. Today crime rates are hovering around 3%. What does this do? This allows our economy to move very positively. This allows young couples, for example, to buy homes. That quarter of a per cent or 1% makes a big difference in their monthly income.

For a moment, I want to talk about the EI situation discussed earlier. That is a very important issue for people to understand. I know I have heard comments from Bloc members who have said that we took money that did not belong to us.

I tend to look at the government or the country as one big family. I know when I was growing up and the revenue was coming into the household, my mother did not say that this was her share. Nor did my father. They did not say that this was her bank account and that was his account.

My parents said that it was one account because it was family. They looked at their expenses such as shopping, paying the mortgage and paying other expenses, et cetera. If there were money left over at the end of the year, they had the opportunity to go to the bank and pay down the mortgage in an accelerated way. This allowed the debt to be reduced as quickly as possible. Then whatever money would be left over would allow them to address other needs, whether it be in post-secondary education or a car for the household, or a vacation or whatever.

Why did I point that out? Because part of Bill C-67 would do exactly that. I was pleased when the Prime Minister, the then minister of finance, brought forward this program with the support of all of us as colleagues at that time, the contingency initiative of $3 billion. He said that we would go down the list of expenses. In addition, we had the contingency fund for a rainy day. That is good money management and proper thinking.

If the government does not use that money for unexpected expenditures, it then can take and pay down that mortgage or pay down that debt, which is what we have done year after year.

The government could not have done that. We could not have been in the position to do that if we had not made those tough decisions back in 1993, 1994 and 1995, to streamline government, to change the way things operated around here. Doing that has provided us with eight consecutive balanced budgets. It provided us with surpluses never heard of before in the history of our country. I do not think another country could say the same thing.

What have we done year after year? We have taken a good initiative toward retiring the debt. If the contingency fund is not utilized, that too will go toward addressing debt retirement.

Bill C-67 would go beyond that. It would let Canadians know that we have heard them. Constituents on my streets in Scarborough Centre repeatedly ask for a fair deal. They want a balanced approach. Meaning what? They want some tax relief. They want the government to invest in programs that they want. Some were addressed, and I mentioned them earlier. Canadians want us to look at debt retirement. That is exactly what Bill C-67 would do. In addition, a $3 billion contingency has been set aside. This is planning for a rainy day.

I am quite proud to stand here today almost 12 years later. I appreciate the comments from the member for Edmonton--Sherwood Park who pointed out that time flies. We both were elected some 12 years ago in 1993. We have enjoyed some good moments together and some heated debates.

I like all my colleagues feel very proud that we have put ourselves in the position where we can give the Minister of Finance the ability to bring forward something such as Bill C-67. This tells Canadians once again that we are listening to them, that the balanced approach we talked about in 1993 has continued.

This initiative is not revolutionary. This initiative is simply one of common sense. It makes a lot of decent sense. I do not want to hit below the belt, but I am compelled at this point in time to respond to my colleagues.

One reason I decided to seek political office in 1993 was this. I was tired of seeing good revenue come into the country, yet a Conservative government could not meet its budgets. In the late eighties and earlier nineties I was an independent businessman who did not mind paying taxes. I felt that if I were paying taxes, it meant thank God, I was doing okay. The Conservative government at that time was following this Reaganomics agenda. It did not meet one budget target in the nine years it was in government. I challenge those members to tell me that is not true.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance quite eloquently pointed out how the Minister of Finance at that time, Mr. Wilson, wanted to do the right thing. Unfortunately, he kept having the rug pulled out from under his feet all the time and was not allowed to implement some of his proposals. Things might have been different. Why could that government not meet one budget target?

Bill C-67 is an add on to what we have been doing. It is showing accountability to Canadians. It is making things more transparent. We are judged on what we did yesterday. The $100 billion tax relief of 2005 is reflective of what we are doing here now. Canadians can rest assured that this proposal will come to fruition. It will show them the fruits of their consideration for us over the years. We will keep our word.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
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October 27th, 2005 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

There we go. Those members even contradict each other. They cannot even agree on that side. One says that is a premium and the other says that it is a tax. It shows us what their policy is all about.

I want to touch upon the word “premium”. What has happened again is another reduction in the EI premium.

Back in 1993 our unemployment rate was 11.2% and 11.3%. The corporate world said to the government that it wanted to create employment, but it wanted the government to address EI and lower the rates. For so many consecutive years EI premiums have been reduced, and most recently again, with tens of billions of dollars less being paid by the employer and the employee.

If that is another fiction, then I challenge the member for Cambridge or anyone else across the way to talk to their constituents. Ask them if they were paying more then and less now. Members will get the answer. If they think it is peanuts, that is fine.

Members over there have the tendency to only complete half the sentence. The member talked about the GST. I state here and now that I am willing to take up the challenge with the member. In the 1993 red book we said that we would replace the GST with an equally revenue generating tax. He knows very well that unless we have revenue coming in, we cannot address areas such as Bill C-67, or Bill C-43, or Bill C-48, or $41 billion for health care, or money for post-secondary education, or money to address the concerns with respect to our environment or the close to $13 billion for our military. If this money is not generated, from where is that revenue going to come?

As I close my remarks, I first challenge the member to come and see me. I will show him the quote in the newspaper and the quote in the red book. Canadians until this very day are asking us why did we not get rid of the GST. We did not promise to get rid of the GST. We promised to replace it with an equally revenue generating tax, and that is in writing.

Second, the proof is in the pudding. Certain provinces have already harmonized. If other provinces were to pick up on that lead, it would be indeed a savings to the provincial governments.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
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October 27th, 2005 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

John Cannis Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I speak to Bill C-67, I would like to respond to my colleague from Edmonton—Sherwood Park when he used the hockey team analogy. He was very right in his response to a question from the parliamentary secretary when he said that if a hockey team charged $1 million for a seat in a hockey arena, the arena would be empty and there would be zero revenue. He is absolutely right, but that is if $1 million is charged. That is the key. If a reasonable fee is charged that hockey arena will be filled. That is what the National Hockey League did recently. It came to that realization.

From 1993 until this very day the Liberal team realizes that we have to use a balanced approach. We have to come to grips with what is going on in this country and tell people the truth, basically deal with it and say what the problem is and what we have to do. That is what we did in 1993.

Today we are discussing Bill C-67, the unanticipated surpluses act. Earlier on the gentleman from Abbotsford was a bit confused about the summary of the bill. I want to take this opportunity to read the summary of the bill so that members opposite understand:

The enactment authorizes the Minister of Finance to make, in respect of fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007, certain payments out of the annual surplus that is in excess of the sum of $3 billion and the amount paid in respect of that fiscal year under An Act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments, being chapter 36 of the Statutes of Canada, 2005. It also authorizes the Minister of Finance to make, in respect of fiscal years 2007-2008 to 2009-2010, certain payments out of the annual surplus that is in excess of $3 billion. The enactment allocates the amounts authorized to be paid as follows: one third to tax relief, one third to spending priorities and the remainder to reduce the accumulated deficit for the fiscal year.

The enactment also provides a mechanism for increases to the basic personal amounts under the Income Tax Act for taxation years 2007 to 2010 in addition to those implemented in the Budget Implementation Act, 2005, so long as the increases are considered to be fiscally sustainable.

For the benefit of my Conservative Party colleague from Abbotsford, that is what the bill is all about.

I came to participate in this debate with set comments with respect to the bill and other issues related around why the Minister of Finance in his wisdom and through consultation with his cabinet colleagues and us as a party is presenting this bill. However, as I sat in this honourable chamber listening to the debate, all of a sudden certain comments triggered me to say to my hon. colleague from Edmonton—Sherwood Park, thank God for immunity in this chamber because a couple of times he contradicted himself. He talked about the debt being over $500 billion and then about it being lower than $500 billion. In a minute I will point out exactly what the debt is.

Certain comments were made. The member for Cambridge talked about fiction. Let me tell him and his party about fiction. In the 2000 budget, as was mentioned earlier by one of my colleagues, a $100 billion tax relief program was rolled out over five years. If he thinks that is fiction, maybe he should look at his T-4 slips for the last five years. I know that each and every Canadian looks at his or her T-4 slip and those Canadians will answer whether it is fiction or not.

The member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park talked about pennies, and I am glad he used the words “ EI premium”. In the past members of his party would say it was a tax. I cannot thank him enough. As a former employer, that is really what it is. It is an employment insurance premium.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2005 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

It is 10¢ or whatever the premium rate is. I will not get into an argument with the parliamentary secretary over there, whoever he is.

I would like to point out once again that it is workers and employers who have been fighting the debt for the Liberals to the tune of around $45 billion. Around $45 billion has been taken out of EI in excess premiums by the Liberals. It has been $45 billion or more. I think $45 billion was the last number I heard and that may have been from last year. It has probably increased by now, and yet those members are saying they have done a great job.

Bill C-67, which is before us today, deals with unanticipated surpluses. I want to talk about the word “unanticipated” before I get down to some of the meat and nitty-gritty of this bill.

“Unanticipated” means that we cannot forecast properly, or if we can, we decide to hide the facts so that we leave ourselves a lot of room for playing with the taxpayers' money at the end for little things, such as an election where it might be nice to have some money in the kitty to roll out to try to buy people's votes.

We know that even in this House the Liberals have tried to do things that are quite unseemly with respect to taxpayers' money in terms of buying votes. That is not acceptable in our society. The rules of Elections Canada forbid it, yet it was done in this House on May 19, when the Liberals made a deal with the NDP, which cost around $250 million per vote on that particular occasion, just in order to stay in power a bit longer.

Let me point out that the cost of an election is approximately $250 million, so every vote on that particular occasion was worth the cost of a federal election. I do not know why the Liberals did not just spend one-twentieth of it or one-nineteenth and go to the people and ask them whether they had confidence in this government instead of buying the NDP. That is an atrocious misuse of taxpayers' money.

“Unanticipated” means very simply that the Liberals have not been properly using statistical measures and statistical forecasting methods in order to get a good estimate what the surplus will be. We know that this Liberal government is absolutely out of it when it comes to accurate forecasting. Year after year, this government has been way out to lunch.

It is obvious that in statistical measures we cannot be dead on over time. I concede that fact, but if we are being fair and honest most of the time we would be out by a small percentage. Occasionally we would be a little low and occasionally a little high. This government has always been very high in its estimate of government expenditures and very low in its estimate of government revenue. As a result, it has consistently posted excessive surpluses.

Those surpluses of course represent money that the government has taken from taxpayers. It has taken an excessive amount. The most recent case of course involved the government's prediction of $1.9 billion. We had a bit of fun with that, calling the finance minister the dyslexic finance minister because $1.9 billion should have been $9.1 billion, which is what it really turned out to be.

We on this side of the House of course applaud the fact that in our economy our people and our businesses are working hard and earning money despite the misuse of their dollars by this government. In spite of that, they are working.

It is also true that these surpluses are largely as a result of policies brought in by a previous government and which the present government opposed. We all remember the GST. In fact, I will never forget it. I believe it was the GST that actually won me the election in 1993 because of the great hatred people had for it.

The Liberals said that they would scrap the GST. I remember pictures on television of the then leader of the official opposition, Mr. Chrétien, saying, “If we are elected we will scrap it”. I will not attempt to mimic his accent or his voice but he did say that he would scrap it and that it would be gone. Did he do it? No, he did not. After his government came into power he thought it was nice money and decided to keep it and use it. Of course, it has been a huge tax.

We probably, at some point in time, will want to continue the debate on the merits of the GST that was brought in by the previous government. The Liberals promised to kill it but instead used it and now crows about how wonderful managers they are because of something they did, which they did not plan and which was brought to them on a silver platter. They were able to use the money to reduce the deficit and start reducing the debt. Good for the government but, on the other hand, they should not be crowing about it and saying that they are such great and wonderful managers. The Liberals never thought of it. The Liberals opposed it and yet it worked for them.

Second, I think of free trade. I remember the Liberals saying that free trade would be an absolute disaster. I heard phrases such as, “What's afta NAFTA? Disasta”. I heard those words from Liberal candidates and others. They did not want that free trade agreement. They were against it and spoke loudly in opposition to it.

We now know that our trade, especially with our American neighbours, despite the fact that the government has tried to do everything to diminish our good relationship with those neighbours, and with other countries around the world has gained us a huge benefit.

Once again the Liberals sort of got the deficit elimination and some debt reduction handed to it on a platter with a policy and with action that they not only did not think of or initiate, but they were against it. Now they are saying that they are great and wonderful. I would point out that if it were not for those things, the Liberals would probably be running deficits right now.

Furthermore, let us think about this. If the Liberals would have managed taxpayer dollars prudently and properly, instead of only using the words, one can only think of the amount of debt reduction that we could have had. I believe it has been the tradition over years in Canada that if there is an unanticipated surplus and if there is a debt, the surplus goes toward reducing the debt.

The present government could never bring itself to put into the budget an actual plan for debt reduction. Instead, it brought in this little thing called a contingency plan. I have no problem with that. I think it is prudent to have a contingency fund. However, in addition to that, it should have done accurate forecasting and built right into the budget a fixed amount that was designated for debt reduction.

Debt reduction is what people want. People want to see the amount of the debt reduced substantially so that we do not give future generations, our young people, our college students and graduates of today, this huge debt and the huge interest.

In several speeches today, including in the speech by the Minister of Finance, I heard Liberals say that some $3 billion a year is now available because of the reduced demand on the treasury to service the debt. I say that is wonderful. However it is too bad the government could not have been serious about debt reduction in the last five or six years with the huge surpluses, instead of going on their spending sprees because the debt could have been reduced even further. It could have been $4 billion or $5 billion that would have been available.

Instead, the government squandered the money and it has very little to show for it. It is the same as what we have to show for some of our teenage kids. They take the money and we wonder what they did with it. It is gone.

I also would like to point to a fallacy in the speech given by the Minister of Finance earlier today. He indicated that the Liberals had inherited a huge debt from the Conservative government that they replaced in 1993. I have said this before and I will repeat it over and over until somebody hears it and gets the point. If we look at the record over the nine years that the Conservatives were in power, they had a balanced budget on program spending. Members can check the record.

I expect the finance minister and the people over there to have accurate numbers when they are talking to Canadians. Members over there are crowing and yelling. They should listen to the facts. I do not have the numbers at my fingertips right now but I think it was in the--

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2005 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Bill C-67 simply builds on what the government has accomplished over the last several years: balanced budgets and unanticipated surpluses because of the prudent manner in which the nation's finances have been handled, not only by this finance minister but by previous finance ministers. Yes, I am confident that Canadians in fact will reap significant benefits as a result of Bill C-67.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
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October 27th, 2005 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Godbout Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member of Parliament for Brant for a very comprehensive overview of Bill C-67. I have been getting positive initial reactions from my constituents on Bill C-67, specifically on the reduction of debt and what is proposed in the legislation. I wonder if the member for Brant could tell us what initial reaction he has had from his constituents, the business community, the community leaders and the residents of his riding of Brant.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2005 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to speak to Bill C-67, an act respecting allocation of unanticipated surpluses and to amend the Income Tax Act.

I would like to take this opportunity to describe the key benefits of the legislation, how it strengthens the accountability, transparency and balance of the government's fiscal policies.

I will start by outlining the reasons for introducing a bill that specifies how to allocate unexpected surpluses over the next five years.

The story actually begins more than 10 years ago, when the Government of Canada realized its fiscal course of deficit financing and ballooning debt loads was simply unsustainable. Drastic action was required and drastic action was taken. The government and all Canadians took the often painful steps needed to put this nation's fiscal house in order.

A few years later, our current Prime Minister, then minister of finance, presented the first fruits of these labours, a balanced budget. That budget eight years ago was the start of a string of eight balanced budgets, a record never before achieved in the history of Canada. We have since benefited in countless ways.

For example, some $3 billion in interest savings has been freed up for investment in Canadian priorities like health care and education. In 2004 and 2005, the government spent just over 17¢ of every revenue dollar on interest on the public debt. This is down considerably from the peak of approximately 39¢ in 1990-91 and is the lowest this ratio has been since the late 1970s.

In addition, our debt load has fallen $63 billion since the government balanced the nations books and is now below $500 billion for the first time in over a decade. These balanced budgets have earned Canada international bragging rights as our net debt burden for the total government sector is now the lowest in the G-7. As recently as the mid-1990s, it was the second highest.

Finally, these balanced budgets have earned us the highest possible ratings by all credit agencies for federal debt, a spillover reward that benefits all Canadian borrowers and debt issuers in the process. This is in great part due to Canada reducing federal debt as a percentage of the economy from its peak of 68.4% in 1995-96 to its current level of less than 39% today.

These are impressive achievements, and it is a rare one since, unlike Canada, many countries today are in no position to contemplate what they should do with any surplus, expected or unexpected. Thanks to this long term, prudent fiscal planning, Canada is the only G-7 country to reduce its debt burden and record a surplus this year, and the only one expected to do so next year and the year after that.

At a time when most industrialized countries must prepare for the fiscal demands of an aging population, Canada is one of the very few currently reducing its debt load before those predicted extra costs become a reality.

We have now reached a point in Canadian history where Canadians expect nothing less than balanced budgets or better from their federal government. The result is that our commitment to achieving balanced budgets has, more often than not in recent years, resulted in surpluses being larger than anticipated in our budget forecasts. It is a problem most countries would surely envy, yet the consequences of our unwavering commitment to balanced budgets are often large budget surpluses with one destination: debt reduction.

Under current legislation, any unanticipated surplus must be applied exclusively to the debt. This prevents our government from using these unanticipated resources for any other purpose.

By no means am I implying that debt reduction is not a productive use of budget surplus; quite the contrary. We now benefit as a country from a debt load which is $63 billion lighter than it was when we first balanced our books. Debt reduction will continue to be essential to eliminating a financial burden that would otherwise weigh down future generations of Canadians and to ensuring that money will always be available to help cope with the unexpected.

However, amidst all of the rewards of higher than anticipated surpluses, we were still missing a key fiscal tool, choice. Regardless of the priorities of parliamentarians and Canadians following a budget surplus, we were severely limited in how we could use it.

It was in part this lack of options which led the government to ask Mr. Tim O'Neill, former chief economist and executive vice-president of the BMO Financial Group to review the Government of Canada's fiscal forecasting process. In the key recommendation of his June report, he concluded that if the government wished to retain its no deficit rule, it should adopt a more formal and structured process for dealing with fiscal surprises.

For the reasons I have already described, the government has no intention of abandoning a balanced budget commitment that has served Canadians so well. As the legislation in front of us today clearly indicates, we have listened to Mr. O'Neill's advice. We are responding with a sound approach to unanticipated surpluses that is very similar to what Canadians have told us time and time again are their priorities.

As the Minister of Finance stated on October 7, Canadians have consistently made it clear that they want us to pursue a balanced and fair approach to how we manage tax dollars by allocating resources among tax relief, social and economic spending and debt reduction. This legislation does exactly that. It extends that approach to future unanticipated surpluses starting with the current fiscal year 2005-06.

The bill would grant authority for the government to allocate any unanticipated increase in the surpluses over the $3 billion contingency reserve among tax relief, priority spending and debt reduction. The contingency fund of course would continue to be diverted toward debt reduction if not needed for emergencies during the fiscal year. The legislation also takes into account the spending priorities set out earlier this year in Bill C-48, an act to authorize the Minister of Finance to make certain payments.

Bill C-67's unanticipated surplus allocation would only be triggered once the surplus is higher than the $3 billion contingency reserve and once spending on Bill C-48 initiatives are included. The legislation would be effective for the next five fiscal years and the precise allocation could change in any given year depending on the size of funds available and government priorities.

On the tax side Bill C-67 specifies how one-third of higher than expected government revenues would translate automatically into a bottom line benefit for taxpayers starting with the 2006 tax year. Tax relief provided under the legislation would be delivered to taxpayers through a one time tax credit when Canadians receive their tax assessment. Under the new legislation the tax relief may not end there, but become an ongoing reduction for Canadian taxpayers.

Bill C-67 would allow the government to make the tax relief permanent subject to the Minister of Finance's assessment that the fiscal impact in following years would not affect the government's ability to prudently manage resources and continue to meet the country's spending priorities.

How would the tax relief provided under the legislation work? Allow me to demonstrate using the current fiscal year 2005-06 as an example. Any unanticipated surplus would be determined in September 2006 with the release of the final surplus figure in the annual financial report. At that time the tax relief set out in Bill C-67 would be announced.

This tax relief would be included on every Canadian taxpayer's notice of tax assessment, which in this case would be delivered early in 2007. Those who paid less federal income tax than the maximum benefit in the preceding year would receive a credit offsetting this previous amount. All other taxpayers would receive the maximum benefit under the bill on their notice of tax assessment.

The Minister of Finance would confirm if individual taxes would be permanently cut, starting in the 2007 tax year, by the same amount as the tax relief. This would be done by adjusting a taxpayer's basic personal amount; that is, the amount of income all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. Deductions would automatically be reduced on Canadians' pay cheques or government income payments in order to reflect the permanent increase in the basic personal amount and corresponding changes to the spouse or common-law partner amounts. This would represent tangible, ongoing tax relief benefiting all Canadians. It would build on the $100 billion tax cut plan of 2000, which continues to benefit all Canadians today.

Let me state emphatically that this bill does not by any means signal the end of the government's commitment to tax relief for Canadians. Rather, this legislation would be above and beyond any tax reduction plan the government may come forward with in the future. In fact, the legislation has the potential to accelerate previously announced tax reforms by accelerating the increase in the basic personal amount to $10,000 by 2009, which was announced in budget 2005. Increasing the basic personal amount to $10,000 would remove approximately 860,000 low income taxpayers from the tax rolls, including nearly 250,000 seniors. Thanks to Bill C-67, we could well reach that worthwhile objective much sooner.

On the spending side, Bill C-67 would specify how end-of-year spending, again starting with the current fiscal year, could go directly toward clearly defined priorities identified at the time of that year's budget and resulting budget legislation. The extent to which one-third of the unanticipated surplus is allocated to spending in every year would depend on the spending priorities identified by the government.

That would ensure appropriate parliamentary review, debate and approval, and would further strengthen transparency in how government spending priorities are determined. It would allow Canadians and this Parliament a vital opportunity to debate the allocation of unanticipated surplus revenue; in other words, to have a direct say in investments for the future health of this country based on the most up-to-date information on the financial resources then available.

All spending obligations would be taken into account before determining the surplus for a specific fiscal year in accordance with accounting standards. The amount available for additional spending initiatives would therefore be determined after taking into account year-end adjustments.

Let me also state that this legislation would in no way hinder us from dealing with the spending priorities set out in Bill C-48 earlier this year. The government is committed to funding the initiatives set out in Bill C-48. We will continue to move forward on these priorities, affordable housing, post-secondary education and foreign aid, to name just a few, wherever possible.

Finally, on the debt reduction side, both this legislation and the $3 billion contingency reserve would continue the government's disciplined approach to debt reduction.

Let me stress that the introduction of this new legislation is by no means a sign that the government is wavering in its determination to reduce the federal debt. In fact, the contingency reserve would continue to be set aside so that, in the absence of unexpected economic shocks, it would be there to reduce the debt burden of future generations.

Combined with a further debt reduction afforded by one-third of unexpected surpluses the ongoing erosion of the federal debt load should continue each and every year.

The Government of Canada continues to stand behind its stated principle of reaching a federal debt to GDP ratio of 25% by the year 2014-15. At the same time however the transparency and accountability of this legislation will give Canadians and we as parliamentarians a greater say in the best uses of unanticipated surpluses, an objective our recent fiscal review recommended and one that Canadians demand.

I have endeavoured to explain how the legislation works. Let me close by stressing what the legislation will mean to Canadians and their families.

Through its commitment to tax relief, Bill C-67 will mean more money for all Canadian taxpayers through an approach which benefits lower and middle income Canadians most of all. It will mean spending priorities that are set well in advance and will allow everyone the opportunity to participate in the debate and contribute to the decisions on how unexpected financial resources will best enrich the country.

It will undoubtedly mean new chapters in the government's debt reduction success story as we continue our world leading approach of ensuring that our current obligations will never stand in the way of our future goals. Greater transparency, accountability, fairness, balance, in the end that is what Bill C-67 is all about.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2005 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have heard the government's rhetoric during this debate on Bill C-67. We have heard the government present a series of half truths. It even tried to push its propaganda on us.

Now let's talk about the real things regarding Bill C-67. Since 1998, $130 billion of new federal initiatives were not included in the budget at the start. This represents close to $75 billion in surplus since 1998, $40 billion of which were unanticipated. That is the problem. It is quite simple. This government estimates have no credibility whatsoever.

I have talked about the government's half truths. Let us be clear. Bill C-67 does not deal with surpluses. It deals with the unanticipated surpluses in the various budgets. That is the problem.

In Bill C-67, the government is proposing a three part formula. Paying down part of the debt is very nice. But it should be considered as a budget item instead of having $3 billion set aside in an annual contingency reserve. If the government really wants to apply $3 billion to the reduction of the debt, it should provide for it in the budget.

That may seem like rhetoric, but it really is not. Since 1998 we have seen a series of last minute measures at the end of the year, more or less electorally motivated, to make the surplus as small as possible. The last financial year is a prime example, in which the projected surpluses changed from $1.9 billion to $9.1 billion and back to $3 billion. At some point, taxpayers have a hard time understanding what is going on, and I can certainly understand why.

The existence, year after year, not just of surpluses but unanticipated surpluses—according to them—is a perfect illustration of the fiscal imbalance. Why? Because the government taxes too much in comparison with its needs. Not only does it tax too much, it does not redistribute enough money to the provinces and Quebec for them to fulfil their responsibilities very well.

It is rather ironic that Bill C-67 is the perfect illustration of a phenomenon that the government totally denies, namely the fiscal imbalance. Bill C-67 should respond to the financial requests of Quebec and the provinces for the funds they need to provide services and fulfil the responsibilities they have under their jurisdictions.

The Prime Minister often talks about education, early childhood, health and the needs of municipalities. He should run for a provincial legislature or in Quebec. If these are the issues that concern him, he is in the wrong legislature.

The governments of Quebec and the provinces often have to meet the direct needs of citizens, but unfortunately Ottawa again ignores the demands of Quebec and the provinces. The federal government should, first, have increased the transfers, especially for post-secondary education and social programs. That would have been very important.

Since 1995, we have seen deep cuts—there has been a slight increase recently I must admit—to the transfers to the provinces. This is one of the ways in which the government financed the paying down of its debt. This was one of the methods, these deep cuts in the transfers to the provinces.

Therefore, rather than institutionalizing these unanticipated surpluses through Bill C-67, the government should reinvest massively in the transfers to Quebec and the provinces. That would be a first step toward trying to correct the fiscal imbalance, at least partially, so that Quebec and the provinces can fulfil their responsibilities.

For example, the second step would be real reform of equalization.

There are ten provinces and two territories in Canada. Equalization is calculated on the basis of five provinces. When there are ten and you want to work out the average, it seems to me that you base your calculations on ten and not on five. However, I understand that the government sometimes has a little difficulty with relatively simple mathematics.

I was saying earlier that the government has too much revenue for its responsibilities. We have what we feel is an excellent suggestion to relieve it of this burden, remove the temptation to spend left and right, and encourage it to regain control of its expenditures. This solution was actually tried already in 1964 and other times and it could still be done today. It involves transferring either tax points or tax fields—such as the GST—to Quebec and the provinces.

In our view, the government's current tax reduction measures are more an electoral gimmick intended to curry short-term favour with the taxpayers and make them forget the fiscal profligacy, poor management and all the scandals tainting this Liberal government.

We proposed to the government many solutions that are not only feasible, but also realistic. If only the government acted in good faith.

The Minister of Finance often says that he consults the best forecasters in the private sector. Why does the government not create a real independent forecasting office which could truly assume the critical responsibility of advising the Minister of Finance in the development of his budget policies, while also, to a certain degree, acting as a watchdog and perhaps telling the minister, from time to time, that he is off the mark in his forecasts?

I said a number of times in this House that, when it comes to budget forecasts, the government has no credibility at all. It always comes up with surprises. Year after year, since 1998, with a simple calculator and a few documents, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot arrives at figures that are very close to the actual numbers at the end of a fiscal year.

By contrast, the government, despite all the resources available at the Department of Finance, is off the mark by billions of dollars. Let us get serious. Unfortunately, as we know, thoroughness is not a trademark of this government.

Bill C-67 institutionalizes unanticipated surpluses. How? This bill proposes a new scheme of this government. If our surpluses exceed the $3 billion expected in the budget, which is a reserve for contingencies—$3 billion would already be used to reduce the debt—the government would apply, in equal proportions, one third to the reduction of the debt, another third—a second time—to the tax relief, while the last third would be applied to the funding of priority socio-economic expenditures.

It is important to keep a number of things in mind. This morning, the hon. member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot made a very telling presentation on the tax relief. We are talking about an amount of $129 annually. I did the calculation and found out that this amounts to 35¢ per day. In other words, I could not even ask for the repayment of a pack of chewing gum, because I would need three days' worth of credits to be able to buy it.

But there is worse, and this is an old habit of this government. At the end of a fiscal year, the government might be tempted to present new budget measures to meet its priorities, as opposed to those of the provinces and citizens, and the government's priorities have to do with an election.

They refer to a period of a year. These are not recurring measures. For once, the government has been clear about this.

What is going to happen? Once again, the federal government is going to create a program, try to meet a need, one that may sometimes not be a priority for the provincial legislatures or for Quebec, and then after a year pull out its funding, leaving it up to the provinces and Quebec to fund these new initiatives. This is an eloquent and undeniable example of fiscal imbalance and of the federal government's all too frequent attempts to interfere in areas under provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. Unfortunately, when it pulls out, for all manner of reasons, MLAs and MNAs are stuck with trying to take over the burden, when they can. They are forced to take over the new program and administer it.

Given the financial capacity of Quebec and the provinces—with the exception of Alberta—at this time, and the visible nature of these services most of the time, the provinces are stuck having to explain to their population why the government has to terminate a program.

With Bill C-67, the federal government obviously prefers to invest its resources in direct spending programs it is in a position to control and thereby improve its image in the eyes of the public. That is understandable, and it needs any improvement it can get. It does this, however, even though this spending is not within areas under its jurisdiction. What is more, the proposed measures close the door to any sharing of the tax base with Quebec and the provinces.

This bill will not stop the federal government from once again cooking the books so that the budget surplus looks smaller than it is. There is nothing that can stop them from doing that. As well, there is nothing stopping them from stepping up their spending in order to avoid having to disclose a huge surplus.

Everyone in this House will clearly recall the national spectacle we were treated to last June when, over a 21-day period, the Prime Minister announced $21 billion worth of initiatives. That spending spree and flood of announcements was nothing short of scandalous.

As I said, there are about 15.5 million taxpayers in Canada. Assuming that the redistribution of the surplus going to tax cuts were based on the figure of a $9 billion surplus, $2 billion of which would go to pay down the debt, that would work out to about $129 per taxpayer, or 35¢ a day.

A little earlier, a colleague from the Bloc Québécois also said that these surpluses include those in the employment insurance fund. Of course, if you ask a member of the government party, he will assure you that there is no problem with this fund. He will tell you that its completely natural that more than half of the people who file claims cannot obtain benefits, and that only 38% of the youth, women and people filing a first claim qualify.

Now they have found one way, among others, to eliminate the surpluses in the employment insurance fund, which is to reduce the premium rate. The problem at present is not the premium rate, but the level of accessibility. Some people find themselves in black holes. They are forced to go on welfare because they cannot collect employment insurance at the hard times in their life.

But if we listen to our friends in the government, everything is just fine. No need for concern: they are taking care of it. We know they are taking care of our money. We see it every day in the House of Commons, and citizens feel it every day in their pocketbook.

The federal government has to address the source of the problem and stop generating indecent unexpected surpluses. The solution is to transfer tax points or the GST, so that the provinces and Quebec can obtain autonomous revenue that can be spent where and how it will best meet the needs of our fellow citizens.

Too often the government reduces this question to a very political dimension, and says: “You know very well, you in the Bloc Québécois.” The Conference Board has estimated these surpluses. I do not believe that the Conference Board of Canada is a sovereignist, separatist agency. If they are, they should call me, I’d like to know. The Conference Board estimates the recurring surpluses at over $10 billion for the current fiscal year, with more than $7 billion tucked away in the foundations established by the present Prime Minister.

You will not convince me that the federal government does not have the resources to correct the fiscal imbalance right now. As I was saying earlier, there will be no surplus; they will barely get to $3 billion in the contingency reserve.

The federal government had the means to do more with this bill to help Quebec and the provinces emerge from the budgetary impasse it has put them in by making deep cuts to transfers since 1995. The recurring surpluses, meagre transfers and increasingly inequitable equalization, far from resolving the fiscal imbalance, have aggravated it. This is a huge problem.

Instead of tackling real problems with Bill C-67, the government is introducing a cosmetic bill to try and improve its image with the population. This is very disappointing. We might have expected better from our elected officials. The past is an indication of what the future holds in store, and unfortunately, Bill C-67 is before us and we have to consider it today.

In the last decade, we have witnessed a constant growth in the Canadian and Quebec economies and a large operation to put public finances back in order in Quebec. In this province, difficult choices had to be made, with financing deadlocks leaving very little leeway because of all the severe cuts made since 1995. Quebec and other provinces did not have much choice.

Today, Quebec is forced to make negative choices and unfortunately to raise taxes, reduce services and add to its debt load. There is almost no flexibility in Quebec as in many other provinces. At the same time, the federal government is generating recurrent budgetary surpluses that are apparently unanticipated. They are really playing with the numbers. This government has become an expert at it. It increases its expenditures and its intrusions into areas of Quebec's and other provinces' jurisdiction. It is trying to impose its will and its political objectives on them.

The federal government's superior financial situation compared to Quebec and other provinces is the backdrop that we, in the Bloc Quebecois, have been trying to correct for a number of years. As I said a little earlier, the federal surplus has shrunk in 2004-2005 to a mere $1.6 billion. However, the Fiscal Monitor for February 2005, which came out in June, was still predicting a $9.7 billion surplus. I cannot understand that lack of reaction by the members of the government in the face of this kind of manipulation of figures that allowed last minute expenses to drastically reduce those unanticipated surpluses, only to invest them in pre-election projects and in this budgetary sham.

In conclusion, I would say once again that Bill C-67 is completely unacceptable because it imposes procedures that will prevent any correction of the fiscal imbalance. The enormous surpluses that the federal government has run over the last few years show that there is a fiscal imbalance. The government must agree, first and foremost, to correct this imbalance so that Quebec and the provinces have the necessary resources of their own to meet the needs of their people. How? By substantially increasing the transfer payments for post-secondary education and social programs, correcting equalization, and negotiating an agreement with Quebec and the provinces for a new division of the tax fields. This would enable them to have the increased revenues of their own that they need to fulfil their responsibilities in their own jurisdictions. Rather than engaging in budgetary smoke and mirrors, the government should deal with the real problems.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

October 27th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member, unfortunately, takes the opportunity every Thursday to ask the same question, knowing the answer will be exactly the same because it is factual.

The opposition days will begin the week of November 14, and I indicated that some weeks ago to the opposition House leaders. At that point, I thought the matter had been dealt with and that we would focus on the agenda, which is important to Canadians.

We will continue with the second reading of Bill C-67, which is the surpluses bill. Should this be completed, we would then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-66, the energy legislation. We do not sit on Friday. On Monday we will commence the second reading debate of Bill C-68, respecting the Pacific Gateway. We will give priority to these bills over the next week.

On Tuesday evening there will be a take note debate on cross-border Internet drugs.

If debates on the major bills that I have referred to are completed by late next week, we will then turn to report stage of Bill S-38, respecting the spirits trade, second reading of Bill C-47, the Air Canada bill, Bill C-50, respecting cruelty to animals, second reading of Bill C-44, the transport legislation, second reading of Bill C-61, the marine bill, reference before second reading of Bill C-46, the correctional services bill, report stage of Bill C-54, the first nations resources bill and other bills that will perhaps come back from committee that we would like to get into the House for further debate.

In order to bring about that take note debate on Tuesday, I move:

That a debate pursuant to Standing Order 53.1 take place on Tuesday, November 1 on the subject of cross-border Internet drugs.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2005 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member somehow suggests that this is a forecasting problem. Is there another country in the world that has our problem of doing too well?

The corporate community in the fourth quarter has performed way beyond what was anticipated by any of the internal forecasters, any parliamentarians, any bank or any chief economic forecasters and the opposition is suggesting that somehow we are cooking the books.

As a consequence of these points that were raised, we consulted with Dr. Tim O'Neill. One of his recommendations was that if the government wanted to retain its no deficit rule, it should adopt a more formal and structured process to deal with fiscal surprises by setting out in advance contingent allocations among tax cuts, spending initiatives and reducing debt from any unanticipated surpluses. That is precisely what Bill C-67 would do.

Unanticipated Surpluses Act
Government Orders

October 27th, 2005 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Guy Côté Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it extremely sad to listen to the member for Mississauga South. He believes what he is saying. This is very sad. He has talked a great deal about the fact that it is impossible to make accurate forecasts. I agree that, some years, revenue would be higher and expenditures lower. But, if it is impossible, how is it that they have been making the same mistake since 1998, oddly enough? This government no longer has any credibility with regard to its estimates. It has none whatsoever.

Bill C-67 formalizes this government's recurring practice of underestimating its surplus so that, at year-end, it can spend this money for electioneering purposes, in direct contradiction to the budget consultation process. This shows disrespect for the witnesses who appear before the Standing Committee on Finance, for the committee itself and even for the House of Commons. It is unbelievable.

Could the member tell me why our finance critic, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, always forecasts the government's end-of-year surplus almost exactly, while the government keeps getting it wrong? This government no longer has any credibility.