House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, it is not a question of putting off the discussions. We are willing to initiate them tomorrow if the provinces are ready. This is quite clear. In fact, we said so during our meeting with the finance ministers. I invited the provincial finance ministers to join me immediately after the budget speech, and I am ready to meet them anytime they want. There is no question of postponing the discussions.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, by postponing, as the minister says in the budget, the negotiations with the provinces on the distribution of transfer payments, is the Minister of Finance trying to conceal from Quebecers before the referendum the negative impact of the new Canada social transfer because it is Quebec which will lose the most, 41 percent of the transfer payment cuts in 1997?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, to begin with, the figures mentioned by the member are totally false.

Second, if you want to know, the cuts in Quebec, in 1994-95 and 1996-97, will amount to $350 million. These are not ridiculous figures like the ones mentioned by the member.

As for the discussions and the fact that he believes we will postpone them until after the referendum, we said in the last budget that we would inform them instead of surprising them like the former government did.

Is the member suggesting that we should proceed immediately? I believe Mr. Campeau will not be very satisfied with that.

Third, tell us when the referendum will be held, let us hold it and then we will be able to solve our problems.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, in yesterday's budget the Minister of Finance pledged to get the federal deficit down to $24.3 billion by 1997.

Meanwhile officials of the Department of Finance have been predicting to reporters and the financial markets that the deficit will then be reduced to zero by the year 2000.

However, yesterday's budget was silent on the all important question of how the minister proposes to get from a deficit of $24 billion to zero in three years.

Will the minister tell Canadians and tell the House today how he plans to get the deficit from $24 billion a year to zero: by increased taxes, by cuts to social programs or by both?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, I have said countless times in this House that in terms of government by far the best way of hitting targets is through a series of short term targets that keep government's feet to the fire.

That is by far the best kind of spending control that any government can have. It is the reason that we hit our target this year. It is the reason that we are going to hit our target next year and it is the reason that we are going to hit our target the year after.

I will tell members what this government does not want to do, and that is bring in a budget like the Reform Party did based on phoney assumptions and false input which does not attain its objectives.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fundamental flaw in the minister's answer is the same fundamental flaw that was in his budget yesterday.

It does not come clean about the imminent threat to Canada's social programs from rising interest payments. Under the minister's budget plan program spending will be reduced by $12 billion over three years, yet the interest on our debt will grow by $13 billion to $51 billion a year in 1997. The reality is that the interest payments are growing faster than the ability to either cut or raise revenue.

My question to the finance minister, and this is just looking for a straight figure, is can he tell Canadians how many billions of dollars per year they will be paying in interest in the year that the budget is finally valid?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that his question is nonsense. We have said that we are going to get to a balanced budget through a series of short term targets and therefore obviously we are looking at the ultimate thing.

I cannot believe that once again this party stands up and talks about preserving social programs when last week it brought down a budget which said that the ultimate purpose of it was to make sure that every poor Canadian stays poor and that the middle class becomes poor.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister claims that his budget protects social programs from unfair unnecessary cuts, but the real social cut is lurking in the massive unnecessary interest charges that this government is irresponsibly building by not attacking the deficit more quickly.

This means that when Liberal social cuts come, as they will, they will be bigger and more desperate and more destructive than Canadians could imagine.

Will the finance minister honestly admit to Canadians that he has put social programs in the gravest of jeopardy by failing to balance the budget more quickly when he had the chance?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the way to clean up this nation's finances is to bring in a budget that brings federal spending down from $120 billion in 1993-94 to $108 billion by 1996-97.

The way to deal with the nation's finances is to have program spending at 13 per cent of the total, which is the lowest number since 1951. The way to preserve social programs is to make sure that the party which said it would claw back the old age pension from people on the guaranteed income supplement never takes power.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Finance.

The budget tabled yesterday provides for additional cuts of $7 billion in payments to the provinces over the next three years. By transferring an additional $7 billion shortfall to the provinces, Ottawa is again downloading part of its deficit.

Would the Minister of Finance agree that the additional cuts his government has ordered in transfer payments to the provinces will inevitably cause either a reduction in services to the public or an increase in provincial taxes or a combination of both?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, not at all. At our meeting with the finance ministers, they asked us, first, to give them at least one year's notice: no surprises. And we did that.

Second, they asked us to cut our own spending first and to cut more than we would cut in payments to them. In 1996, for instance, there will be a 7.3 per cent cut in federal spending and only a 4.3 to 4.4 per cent cut in payments to the provinces. If we consider the province of Quebec, it is only $350 million compared with this year. So these cuts are less than 3 per cent of provincial revenues, and I think that is reasonable.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister's figures are wrong. He is looking at total transfers, and he knows perfectly well he is only cutting cash transfers.

Would the Minister of Finance confirm that the cuts in transfer payments to the provinces he ordered yesterday will result in a shortfall of over $2.5 billion for Quebecers, three years from now?

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Mr. Speaker, compared with this year, it is $350 million.

The Budget
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Mr. Speaker, during the 1980s Michael Wilson used to deliver budgets that contained the same rhetoric and projections of stable debt to GDP ratios as did the budget tabled yesterday. As

analysts said then and are saying now, planning for stable debt to GDP ratios during prosperity is not sufficient.

Why would not the next inevitable economic downturn again increase the deficit and once again put the country on the unsustainable path of a growing debt to GDP ratio?