House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

The House resumed from March 7 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government; the amendment and the amendment to the amendment.

The Budget

11 a.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the 1996 budget is about the future, the secure prosperous future all Canadians desire. If any group represents Canada's future it is our young people. That is why the Liberal government's commitment to fair, sustainable and secure social programs would be incomplete if we did not include action to assist children who are the most vulnerable and in the greatest need. At long last this budget introduces a new strategy to strengthen protection for children buffeted by divorce and separation.

As the Minister of Finance told Parliament on March 26, and as many Canadians have known for some time, the current child support system has added to the uncertainty and anxiety many Canadians feel. The minister clearly outlined that in our view children should be the first in line. Child support is the first obligation of parents; it is not discretionary.

The budget acted on that principle. It announced the child support reforms which take wide ranging action to ensure the child support system is based on what is best for children. To start with, the government is changing the way child support payments are taxed. Until now child support payments have been tax deductible for the paying parent and taxable as income for the parent receiving the payments.

The budget proposes that we move to a system known as no deduction, no inclusion. What does that mean? Custodial parents will no longer be required to include child support payments in their taxable income and support paying parents would not deduct these payments from their taxable income. These new tax rules will apply to court orders or agreements made on or after May 1, 1997.

Child support paid under a court order made before May 1, 1997 would continue to be deductible by the parent and included as taxable income by the recipient until the support payment is changed by a court ruling or the parties add a clause to their agreement providing that the new tax rules will apply, or the payer and recipient file a joint election with Revenue Canada.

Coupled with this important tax change is a second major component of the child support reform. The government is introducing child support guidelines to make support awards fair and more consistent and to reduce the degree of conflict between separating parents.

These guidelines will be used across Canada by the courts, lawyers and parents to establish appropriate support payments. They include a payment schedule, a set of tables showing the basic amount of support to be paid according to the number of children and the income of the support paying payment.

The second part of that is that scheduled amounts can be adjusted to recognize individual family circumstances. Special expenses for child care, health care, education or extracurricular activities can be added to the scheduled amount provided that these expenses are reasonable and necessary in light of the needs of the children and the means of the parents.

The guidelines allow a court to alter the award in exceptional circumstances where it would cause undue hardship to either parent or to the child.

The third component of the child support reform strategy will be the enhancement of the federal-provincial enforcement measures. Children benefit from fair support awards only if they are paid in full and on time. The numbers are appalling. Far too many children in Canada are left without adequate financial means because one of their parents is willfully ignoring their responsibility to their children. Some one in four children's parents are fully paid up in their child support awards. This is an appalling situation.

As a federal government we must remember that child support is mainly a provincial and territorial responsibility, and so the

measures we are proposing compliment the enforcement efforts and strategies at that level.

It should be emphasized that we are targeting parents who are persistent defaulters on their support payments. How are we to do that? We will start a national public awareness campaign that will aim at changing public attitudes about child support. It is not discretionary; it is the first responsibility of parents.

We will provide provincial enforcement programs with a new enforcement mechanism. Legislation will be enacted that will authorize the suspension of federal licences, privileges and certificates such as passports when someone has demonstrated persistent wilful default.

The federal government will provide up to $13.7 million over five years to help the provinces expand the use of more aggressive enforcement measures and streamline the collection of out of province orders.

Improvements to the federal tracing service will allow the release of certain information from designated federal information banks to help locate defaulting debtors. This will include Revenue Canada to the list of departments whose data bases can be searched at the request of provincial enforcement agencies.

We will also improve federal pension diversions to ensure this measure can be applied to persistent defaulters. This can be done even if the defaulter refuses to apply for pension benefits to ensure the maximum amount of benefits goes to child support.

Improvements to computers systems will allow for on line computer access between federal, provincial and territorial enforcement services. This will enhance the efficiency of the garnishment and tracing service and greatly facilitate the exchange of information.

This is concrete and substantial action, but I am glad to say the 1996 budget plan does not limit new assistance to children whose parents are separated or divorced. There is another very important measure. The budget announces we will be doubling the working income supplement under the child tax benefit in two steps.

This will ensure and encourage employment and self-reliance by helping low income parents meet some of the expenses resulting from membership in the paid workforce, expenses like child care and transportation. It also helps make up for the benefits lost by parents who leave social assistance to re-enter the workforce.

Beginning in July 1997 we will go from the current maximum of $500 to $750, and in July 1998 it will be increased to a maximum of $1,000. When fully phased in this will result in an additional $250 million in support annually to approximately 700,000 low income working families, one-third of which are single parent households.

I am proud to be part of a government that puts children first, that thinks about the cost of not taking care of our children and that makes sure parents understand the responsibility to their children.

I am sharing my time with my colleague from Hillsborough who will take the remaining time.

The Budget

11:10 a.m.

Hillsborough
P.E.I.

Liberal

George Proud Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for a very fine budget address.

I start my budget address, as I know all members do, by congratulating the Minister of Finance for yet another successful budget. Like the two previous budgets, the needs and wants of Canadians have been addressed. It will result in the creation of jobs and promote economic growth by further reducing the deficit. To the minister I say a good job, well done.

The government is continuing the processes that began with the 1994-95 budget. The comprehensive strategy for federal finances determined is measured and responsible. The government is determined because we are not letting up our fight to reduce the deficit. The books will be balanced. The debt to GDP ratio will be on a constant downward track year after year.

It is measured because our fiscal action is not indiscriminate and mindless but is structured to a pace conducive to efficient adaptation. It is designed not as a quick fix but to achieve long term, permanent progress.

There are those in the House who would want us to believe that a quick trashing of the government books would be the cure all of the national debt. The government knows that deficit reduction must be measured in order for it to be sustainable.

Our approach is responsible because it is a strategy that involves carefully weighing the needs of our economy and our society and equally carefully designing the policy options to meet those needs. Just as important, we are striking the balance necessary to keep Canadians on side for our deficit reduction efforts.

Again, referring to the slash and burn tactics of some people in the House, their approach would result in a revolt so massive it would make the Ontario strike look like a walk in the park.

We all know the reasons behind reducing the deficit but I feel they must be reiterated. The lethal combination of high interest rates and deficit borrowing also means a growing share of government resources must go to interest payments on a growing debt.

That is why we have acted, not because tackling Canada's fiscal problem is not a goal in and of itself but because it is a fundamental component for our natural growth, new jobs and economic security.

We have maintained our focus on reducing program spending because the debt is a problem created by government and the

solution should focus on cutting in our own back yard. Therefore there are no tax increases in the 1996 budget; no personal taxes, no corporate taxes, no excise taxes. This is good news to people in my riding and to all Canadians.

The federal government has fought quite hard to reduce the deficit since taking office. However, what is equally important is that the provinces and territories are doing the same. The provincial and territorial governments are well on their way to balancing their budgets. The combined provincial-territorial deficit has been cut to $12.6 billion in 1995-96 from its peak of $25 billion in 1992-93. This is a drop of 3.6 per cent of GDP to 1.6 per cent.

I am pleased to say the P.E.I. provincial government had a balanced budget in 1995 and it did so without major tax increases. Even more impressive is the $3.4 million surplus for the 1996-97 fiscal year presented last week in the provincial legislature by the provincial treasurer, the hon. Wayne Cheverie.

As a result, Canada's total government sector deficit is projected to improve sharply relative to other G-7 countries. This is very important for an open country like Canada.

Since over 30 per cent of our national income is generated by our exports, it is important that we remain competitive. All levels of government are helping to do that by getting their fiscal houses in order. For its part, the federal government is reforming the way it conducts its affairs. This and the past two budgets are reducing waste and inefficiency and redefining the government's programs and activities. These actions will ensure that program spending continues to fall through 1998-99 delivering major fiscal savings into the future.

The federal government will further clarify its core program responsibilities in the economy. The government will make these programs more efficient and effective in order to deliver better quality services at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

The program review which was initiated in the 1994 budget is continuing. We are still exploring new ways to improve the delivery of service and reduce costs. The essence of these changes is to give service delivery organizations greater autonomy to provide their services in ways that are more responsive to the needs of their clients and more cost effective.

This will reduce overlap and duplication. Through co-operation and partnerships with the provinces and territories, these goals can easily be achieved. We are working with the provinces on a continuous basis to improve services to Canadians.

I have spoken long enough on our deficit reduction agenda. For the benefit of hon. members on the other side of the House I would now like to talk about some of the benefits of our efforts.

Last year the Minister of Finance and cabinet announced the implementation of the Canada health and social transfer. As a result of the efforts, this transfer will be stabilized and will even begin to grow. That is right, it will grow. The CHST will be stabilized at $25.1 billion from 1997-98 to the turn of the century. After that this transfer will actually grow according to a formula tied to economic growth.

To the residents of my province of Prince Edward Island this means that the 1997-98 CHST will amount to $114 million and by the year 2003 it will be up to $122 million. That is good news for our provincial government and for Islanders as a whole.

Further good news is the guarantee of the cash portion of the transfer. The cash floor within the transfer will be guaranteed by legislation. This is quite different from the old direction of the transfer that would see the cash portion totally disappear within a decade. The stability of this transfer is very important to the provinces. This will provide greater clarity for their own budget forecasts.

The groundwork of our deficit reduction was laid out in the first half of our mandate. The savings accrued from those hard decisions now allow us to turn our attention to other items of concern to Canadians. It is through our efforts that our social programs will be saved.

I for one am glad that when I go back to my riding on the weekends I can tell my constituents that the Prime Minister's promise to seniors has been kept. The changes announced in this year's budget do not affect today's seniors. The pension of every Canadian who is 60 and over as of December 31, 1995, and their spouses regardless of age, will be fully protected.

When the new seniors benefit is implemented in 2001 these seniors may choose whichever system is more advantageous, either moving to the new system or maintaining their OAS/GIS payments. It should be emphasized that savings will come from slowing the rate of growth in program costs, not at the expense of those in need. While the savings at first will be small, they will build year by year to about 11 per cent of program costs by the year 2030.

Legislation will be tabled later this year and we will be inviting public submissions on the proposal to be followed by consultations through parliamentary committee hearings. The response should be positive because the seniors benefit meets these key public goals: reducing the long term costs will make the public pension system more sustainable; targeting help to those who need it most is the fairest way to reduce costs; and with the new seniors benefit all Canadians, particularly the young, can be assured the public pension system will be there for them now and in the future.

Another item of concern to Canadians that has been addressed by this budget is reform of child support as was mentioned by my colleague a few moments ago. A more equitable treatment of support payments will be implemented. As of May 1, 1997 the

system will move to a no deduction, no inclusion format. The payers of the support payments will no longer deduct them from their taxable income and the custodial parents will not include them in their taxable income.

There will also be guidelines for the payment of child support and greater measures for the enforcement of those payments. The approach will address the first priority: our children. These children are our future. We must provide for them as much as we can.

That brings me to our next point: investing in our future. The government is taking durable, meaningful steps forward rather than relying on short term direct spending programs which only result in a step back when we look at the long term effect. It emphasizes collaboration with partners and strategic investments to steer the forces of the economic change toward greater employment, employment that is sustainable.

But first things first. For the sustained economic growth needed to deliver new jobs, we must start by securing Canada's economic fundamentals which as I have said earlier means getting the deficit down and keeping it down. High persisting deficits go hand in hand with high interest rates. High interest rates as we all know discourage investment, borrowing and consumer spending. Ultimately they discriminate against jobs.

We have a plan. We will focus on getting our youth on the job. The first job is very important. Giving our youth a better chance at their first job will improve their confidence and ability to get the equally important second job. Our youth programs will accomplish this task. Coupled with our learning package these measures will provide the means for young Canadians to get the education and experience to obtain the challenging and rewarding career for which they strive.

However, government cannot do it alone and more important, as has been said, it is not supposed to. The role of government is to create the economic environment which will allow the private sector to create the jobs that are needed to get Canadians back to work.

It is through partnerships with the private sector that our role can be fulfilled. One way the government can do this is to target its investment in the key areas of our economy.

The budget also increases investment in technology and innovation through a number of actions over the next three years funded by the reallocation of $270 million from budget savings. For example, Technology Partnerships Canada will be established to encourage risk sharing with the private sector and to leverage investment in the development and commercialization of high technology projects and processes. Funding will grow from about $150 million in 1996-97 to about $250 million by the year 1998-99.

I believe this is important for all Canadians and I believe it is important for my province of Prince Edward Island. We have the capabilities to succeed in the high technology world. All we need is help to tap into it. Islanders welcome the possibilities that come with the focus on high growth sectors of the Canadian economy.

I urge Prince Edward Islanders to take full advantage of this focus. We have little to lose and so much to gain. It is possible to create year round employment on the island and it is up to the private sector to create those jobs.

The Budget

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the comments of the hon. member for Hillsborough were along the lines that the deficit has been reduced year after year by the Liberal government. Certainly that is true, although we have seen the federal debt rise to some $600 billion. It has increased over $100 billion in the time of its mandate.

Given that the debt is rising so dramatically, could the hon. member for Hillsborough tell us what specific target date the government has for reducing the deficit to zero, to have a balanced budget, which will enable it to start paying down the debt? Can he give us a date?

The Budget

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

George Proud Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my speech, we have worked on deficit reduction. We will continue to do so until the books are balanced. I will certainly not give him a date as to when that might be, but I can tell him that we are much better prepared to do it now than we were over the last number of years. It certainly will take place in the distant future.

The Budget

11:25 a.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened very attentively to both the Liberal speakers.

The best security we can offer the children of Canada are parents with a stable income. The greatest threat to the economic stability of a family is the unrestricted power of government to tax away its wealth.

There is an ever rising demand on the revenue dollar to pay the interest on an ever rising debt. When the Tories replaced the Liberals in 1984 they inherited a $200 billion debt from the Liberals. In nine years they added another $300 billion to it. The first budget presented by this government promised to add another $100 billion to that.

When we talk about the security of families and children, that debt is the greatest threat to their security. It is the greatest threat to good long term, well paying jobs for the parents of those children.

I admonish the members who have spoken and also the government. As the demand on the revenue dollar continues to increase to

pay the ever rising interest on our ever increasing debt, the security of the individual family is weakened. The greatest thing we can do is to get spending under control and reduce the amount of money we need to pay the interest on this huge debt.

The greatest transfer of wealth that is going to occur in 1997 is not to the provinces or to individuals in Canada. It is going to be to those we borrowed the money from, to the tune of approximately $50 billion a year.

Would the hon. member care to address his views on the threat that this picture poses to the economic security of families and children in Canada?

The Budget

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

George Proud Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, we all know that the best thing for security is full time permanent jobs. The debt is astronomical and we all realize that. The government has started to get the deficit under control. It has offered some enhancement for the future. The economy is going well and jobs will be created if the climate is there. I believe the budget has done that. Reports from the media state that this is what people in the business community think. It is not perfect. I will be the first to admit that. It is probably not in total what I would like to see, but it is a lot better than it was when we came here. I can guarantee it will continue to get better.

The Budget

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking today as part of the debate on the budget announced on March 6 by the Minister of Finance.

Unlike the hon. member who spoke before me, I have no congratulations whatsoever for either the Minister of Finance or the government for a budget I find deplorable, inequitable, regressive and inhumane in a number of ways. The main victims of this third Liberal budget are the ordinary folk, the workers, the unemployed, the welfare recipients, the elderly, the immigrants, the low income families.

The other main victims are the provinces, all of the provinces, Quebec in particular, which will see their transfer payments reduced.

The massive cuts in this Liberal government's three budgets, in particular the last one, are doing great harm to the people of Canada and the people of Quebec, and in particular to the ordinary folk in my riding of Bourassa, in Montreal North. My riding contains many single parent families, many retired people, many unemployed people and many, very many, immigrants. These cuts do great harm to the 600 people who are on the Montreal North waiting list for low rental housing.

As I have said, this is an inequitable and unjust budget. The unemployment insurance reform and the reduction in transfer payments to the provinces for social assistance, health and post-secondary education have already sent shock waves through the population, and continue to do so. It is my belief that these brutal cuts may well trigger a major social crisis in this country.

There have been many demonstrations everywhere in Canada against the cuts in social programs and against the cuts in unemployment insurance, particularly in the Atlantic provinces. Everywhere in Quebec, including Montreal, Shawinagan in the Prime Minister's riding, Quebec City, the Gaspe, and in Ontario.

I believe that these brutal and inequitable cuts are coming close to the limit Canadian and Quebec society will tolerate. As we can see everywhere, the social situation is becoming increasingly explosive, particularly because people can see that the budget is unfair, that the major companies, like the banks, and the people in the upper income brackets are either not affected at all or only barely so.

Instead of the government talking with workers or organizations representing them, the Minister of Human Resources Development is directing insults and accusations at the union leaders, particularly the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, the union that represents most Canadian workers, with its 2.4 million members.

On top of that, the Minister of Human Resources Development, who should be advocating dialogue among all sectors of society, is refusing to meet with the president of the CLC to discuss the cuts in social programs and the cuts to unemployment insurance.

It is incredible that the government, which is no longer contributing to the unemployment insurance fund, is making improper use of the $5 billion surplus in the unemployment insurance fund, and it is unacceptable. A number of members have said here that Quebec receives more in unemployment insurance than it contributes. I tell you that, in 1995, employers and workers in Quebec paid $4.530 billion dollars into the fund. UI claimants in Quebec received only $4.340; a difference of $195 million, which was not returned to Quebec. This, despite the fact that, for February, the rate of unemployment in Quebec was 11.3 per cent, or 414,000 workers actively seeking employment. There is no mention of those who are leaving unemployment insurance to go on welfare.

For Canada, the unemployment rate in February was 9.6 per cent, or 1,539,000 unemployed workers. That is a lot. It is scandalous. What is more, in 1995, the figure was only 1,514,000.

I was a UI referee for eight years in Montreal, and all those I met-the recipients and the lawyers-used to tell me about the need to improve-and not decimate-the UI program, which was set up under pressure from the labour movement and the workers. The Liberals are in the process of destroying this important social benefit.

When the Conservative government was in office in 1990, 87 per cent of unemployed workers were receiving benefits. In January 1996, under the Liberal government, 46 per cent of unemployed workers were receiving benefits. Less than half. That is outra-

geous. That is why the Bloc Quebecois, like the labour movement as a whole, demands that Bill C-12 be immediately withdrawn.

In this budget, we expected the government to submit a plan to revive the economy and create jobs. Yet, there is nothing of the sort in his budget, despite the Liberal Party's famous election promise of "jobs, jobs, jobs".

I take this opportunity to salute those attending the summit on the social and economic future opening tonight in Quebec City. This is a Quebec government initiative involving the participation of unions and employers, among others. I hope that the results of this summit will benefit all the people of Quebec and that those taking part will take adequate measures to revive the economy and create jobs.

One of the things that I found most shocking in this budget is that it reduces the tax benefits for labour sponsored venture capital funds. There is nothing to create jobs in this budget, which cuts moneys to the very organizations that seek organizations that seek to create and maintain jobs. These labour sponsored venture capital funds are effective tools to create jobs. Yet, the government is cutting the federal tax credit rate for these funds from 20 to 15 per cent and lowering maximum investment from $5,000 to $3,500.

There are 19 workers' funds in operation in Canada. The funds' assets amount to $2.5 billion or $3 billion. They have invested more than $850 million in the Canadian economy since they were established. In Quebec alone, the fund established by the FTQ, or Fédération des travailleurs du Québec, has helped maintain or create about 40,000 jobs. Forty thousands jobs in a single province, that is very significant.

The government claims it wants to get Canadians back to work. But why hit workers so hard, and their funds, which are used mainly to invest in small and medium size businesses? What is terribly unfair in all this is the fact that these cuts affect mostly Quebec, where half the money in these investment funds comes from.

In response to a question by the Bloc Quebecois a few days ago, the Minister of Finance said that this kind of tax incentive would be reduced, since these funds are now very well established. But it certainly is not the case with the CSN's-the Confédération des syndicats nationaux-action fund. This is a new fund, which is not yet very well established and therefore requires government support.

I worked on establishing the Fonds de solidarité de la FTQ when I was a servicing representative, and this fund has helped thousands of FTQ members, people who do not make a lot of money, in allowing them to put money aside toward their retirement. It also helped maintain or create 40,000 jobs, as I mentioned earlier. Why attack this fund? The proposed cutbacks will slow down job creation in Quebec, and particularly in regions where economic growth is sluggish.

A study conducted by the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre shows that the government recoups the tax costs relating to workers' funds within three years or less. This study takes into account benefits such as the following: with these funds, tax revenues increase as a result of investments being made; also, reliance on the UI system is reduced because more people are at work and fewer claim UI benefits.

But the government did not attack the registered retirement savings plans, the RRSPs, in its budget. As we all know, such tax deductions can help create employment, but 20 per cent of this job creation could take place abroad. Twenty per cent of RRSP contributions can be invested abroad.

Why cut in investment funds then? As I said earlier, unemployment is at 11.3 per cent in Quebec, and more than 800,000 Quebecers are on social assistance.

The FTQ had the extraordinary idea of setting up this Fonds de solidarité a few months ago. I was there, to help complement this initiative by establishing regional funds. Nine of these regional funds, which will be set up everywhere in Quebec, have already been created. I congratulate the FTQ and the officials of the fund for their extraordinary contribution to promoting job creation. I should point out that the Quebec government and the administrative regions are partners in these regional funds.

What does this budget provide regarding old age pensions? The government creates a new seniors benefit to replace old age security, guaranteed income supplement, age credits, as well as pension income credits. The most dangerous aspect of this budget is that this new seniors benefit puts an end, once and for all, to the universality of benefit programs for seniors. This is very serious and simply unacceptable. The principle of universality applies to all social security programs.

The minister tells us that most of these measures will not affect current retirees, but future generations will be severely hit by these changes. In my riding, in Montreal North, the Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées opposes the federal government's decision. It is firmly opposed to any reform that would undermine the benefits program for the elderly.

As for corporate taxation, we, Bloc Quebecois members, and myself in particular as the member for Bourassa, expected the government to review the corporate tax system. There is currently a shortfall of close to $10 billion. We must put an end to tax havens. There is no reform in this budget, only promises and commissions.

There is nothing concrete. Meanwhile, the profits of major banks exceeded $5 billion in 1995.

This explains the tax revolt. Everyone knows that banks do not pay their fair share of taxes. The banks that registered these sky-high profits are the same ones that made massive layoffs. We demand a true corporate tax reform, as well as the establishment of a minimum tax for corporations.

According to the Department of Citizenship and Immigration's estimates, expenditures for 1996-97 will reach $621.5 million. The budget for ICSI will be $76.8 million. This is $8.1 million in additional resources for that activity. I do not see the reason for spending more to promote citizenship.

The Budget

11:45 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Unfortunately, the time allotted to the hon. member for Bourassa has expired.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

John Bryden Hamilton—Wentworth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great attention to the remarks of the member for Bourassa, particularly the comments about the 19 labour investment funds that have total assets ranging from $2.5 billion to $3 billion. I know a little bit about them and I take exception to his suggestion that these funds are unfairly attacked in the budget. He seems to be implying that these funds are creating jobs.

They are not creating very many jobs. They are great for investors because of the tax credit but most of their assets are tied up in blue chip stocks and money market vehicles.

Would the member for Bourassa support me in pressing the government for an amendment that would require the labour investment funds to invest at least half their assets in Canadian small businesses so that at least $1.5 billion of it would be used to create jobs?

The Budget

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Quebec this is what is being done. The FTQ's Fonds de solidarité is investing in small and medium size businesses. This fund has already created 40,000 jobs. It is a start. But I think that it must go further. I am in agreement with the general idea of my colleague from Hamilton-Wentworth, but until now this initiative has been a complete success. After the FTQ's Fonds de solidarité was created, 15 other such funds were set up in Canada, including in British Columbia and Ontario.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Ronald J. Duhamel St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my colleague a few questions. I wonder if he would give me his reaction to the comments in the media regarding the government's budget.

Constituents in my riding, for example, are happy to hear that there is no increase in taxes, that there will be additional cuts within government, that funds have been earmarked for the purpose of doubling the amounts spent on creating summer jobs, that there will be this new initiative to create entry level jobs for young people in order to give them experience. They have praised the government because it continues to target the deficit and make progress. Despite the cuts, it will be able to increase transfers to the provinces for health, education, training and social assistance.

I therefore wonder if he has any comments to make. I find it surprising that the comments he is reporting from his riding seem to be very different from those I have been hearing in mine.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, true, there are no new taxes. But everybody knows Canadians have been taxed to the hilt, especially under the Conservative government. We are told there are no additional cuts in this budget, but it is not so. There are several cuts, especially to transfer payments to the provinces. These cuts are huge. Most cuts announced in the last budget are coming into force this year.

He points to the job creation initiative for young people. I have seen how it has been welcomed by young people. They are not very pleased with this kind of job creation. This is not what they wanted. This is not significant. The government should have tried a bit harder in this area.

The Budget

11:50 a.m.

St. Paul's
Ontario

Liberal

Barry Campbell Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pick up on the discussion of labour sponsored venture capital funds. The hon. member is correct in pointing out that they have been very successful, particularly in the province of Quebec. However, the government must at all times look at the total picture and weigh the effectiveness of incentives provided against other measures presented in the budget.

As the budget papers point out, those venture capital funds have approximately a two-year supply of capital based on the level and the rate of investment that has been engaged in by those funds. It seemed to be an appropriate and reasonable measure to scale back, to temper the incentive a little bit.

I wonder if the hon. member thinks that government should never re-examine and balance the incentives that it provides and just keep on benefiting one sector on and on.

The Budget

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, such investment funds are revolutionary. When they were first created, not too many people believed they would work. Small investors, workers whose salary might be

barely above the minimum wage, are encouraged to invest in these funds, which will provide for their retirement.

The goal of these funds is not purely economic. They also have a social goal. For instance, the businesses in which the FTQ fund has been investing offer economic training to their workers; they learn how to take part in managing the firm. The fund is doing a great job.

Why not tackle some other problem areas? Why not go after tax havens instead of workers' funds, and why not levy a minimum corporate tax, as is done in the U.S.? There are many areas other than workers' investment funds where the government could have found more money.