House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

House Of Commons
Statements By Members

March 12th, 1997 / 2:10 p.m.

Reform

Bob Ringma Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the event of an election this may be my last statement in this House. Therefore I want to thank you, Mr. Speaker, the Clerk of the House and all of the parliamentary staff.

I recognize the feelings of personal friendship that extend across political lines, et qui surmonte les lignes de langues.

It is in committee that we recognize the difference in methods but the common goal of most MPs is doing what is best for our country. As for members of my caucus they are terrific.

I thank my office staff Don, Inge, Lise and Mike, and volunteers like Gary and Marion. Hats off to the constituency association with Jim, Roy, Alex, Art the two Bettys, Bob, Don, James, John, Ken, Lavinia, Lois, Marion, Nora, Pat and Reed.

I am honoured to have served the taxpayers of Nanaimo-Cowichan and I thank the people across Canada who supported me in difficult times. My gratitude to every member of my family and old friends like Al, Charlie, Ken, Les, Sid and Wes who never wavered.

And, finally to my friend and wife Paula, I love you. Come along and grow old with me.

House Of Commons
Statements By Members

2:15 p.m.

The Speaker

It is not often that I make a statement in the House but an incident occurred yesterday which I know touched many members because you have been contacting me. It touched me greatly also.

The background is this. A young Micmac girl who was here with the Forum for Young Canadians wanted to bring an eagle feather into the House of Commons yesterday and through a misunderstanding-actually a mistake-she was told she could not bring in the feather. Many of you are aware that my grandmother was an Ojibway Indian and my Dad being Metis. I know I have aboriginal blood in me.

To the young girl, Melissa Labrador, I extend the apologies of this House. Of course it is permissible for an aboriginal to bring an eagle feather into this House. It was a mistake. It will not happen again.

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I must say it is not easy to take aim at the government in this situation. In fact, they pulled a fast one on me.

Nevertheless, I will have to attack the Minister of Finance again today. Three weeks ago, the Minister of Finance made a budget speech in which his estimate of a $19 billion deficit seemed rather high, considering the real figures he had at the time, figures which we now have and which will probably put the deficit at around $10 or $12 million at the most. In fact, he was quite content to give us a forecast that was twice as high, a forecast that was off by 40 or50 per cent.

My question is for the Prime Minister. In the private sector, and we often refer to the private sector, what would they do with an accountant who, three weeks before the end of the financial year, was out 50 per cent in his forecast? He would be fired. I want to ask the Prime Minister what he intends to do with his Minister of Finance who is incapable of forecasting a deficit more or less accurately?

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, before going any further, I may say that when shareholders have their meeting and the board announces a bigger profit than had been expected, generally the board is given a bonus.

We hope and in fact we believe, since we are ahead of the game with our forecast, that voters will give us a bonus.

Since this is the hon. member's last chance to ask me questions as Leader of the Opposition, I would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks. His departure will be no great loss for us but it will be a great loss for his party. Not for us. Because, although he can be aggressive, I must say I never felt I was being attacked personally. We can disagree on ideas, but he is not one to make personal attacks.

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Saint-Maurice, QC

We are almost neighbours, because when he goes home, he takes the road to La Tuque via Shawinigan.

I think he will be missed by his party and by the House as Leader of the Opposition. Fortunately, we stand to gain. I want to thank him for the work he has done and I wish him the best of luck.

Now he can come back again with a supplementary, and I can repeat that we are very proud of doing better than we expected, and I will certainly not scold the Minister of Finance for this.

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister was always as friendly as he is today, question period would not be the same. Too bad this does not happen more often.

There is something dangerous in what the Prime Minister said, but seriously, I would like to get back to the substance of the question. The Minister of Finance made a mistake in his forecast, in other words, badly misinterpreted the indicators available to him at the Department of Finance, and the fact that the actual figures are far better, is of course wonderful, and of course everybody is pleased, but we must be careful. This same inability to interpret data could have produced the opposite result, unless the Minister of Finance knew what he was talking about and did so on purpose.

My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Please be patient with me, Mr. Speaker, this is my last question. Please bear with me.

Is this not a government strategy to put artificial pressure on provincial governments which were forced to go along with more than $4 billion in cutbacks over the past two years?

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Saint-Maurice
Québec

Liberal

Jean Chrétien Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the excellent results we now see followed decisions that were made very early on when we formed the government.

At the time we did not know exactly what the outcome would be so we developed a plan. The plan is working better than we thought, and everyone should be very pleased about this.

We should also consider the fact that when we formed the government, the Minister of Finance and I realized that the previous government's budget forecasts were always more optimistic by as much as 8, 9, 10 or 11 billion dollars than was actually the case.

The Minister of Finance decided to be more rigorous and is to be commended on the results we obtained. And the provinces,Mr. Leader of the Opposition, are much better off, because they pay far less interest on servicing their provincial debt thanks to this government's good management.

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Roberval
Québec

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Leader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, I am convinced that the Minister of Finance had these figures when he drafted his latest budget. What bothers us on this side of the House is the minister's interpretation of those figures.

Since the Prime Minister today refers to good management that has helped free up billions of dollars, is he not a little embarrassed when he sees the unemployed workers in the maritimes and Quebec who protested vehemently against the cuts in unemployment insurance? Does he not think it is somewhat immoral that a

government that collects $12 billion more than expected cut about $1 billion annually in benefits for the unemployed, the poorest in our society? Is that not immoral?

The Deficit
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, first of all, as the Leader of the Opposition knows perfectly well, when we made structural changes in programs like the employment insurance program, the main objective was not to reduce the deficit but to provide some impetus for job creation. The changes were necessary to update these programs.

Second, I will give you an example of what the Prime Minister just said. The previous government forecast a deficit of $32 billion for 1993, and when we came to power, we found it was $42 billion. As for the $6 billion change last month, changes are always made at the end of the financial year. We have worked very hard to rebuild the government's credibility and that is why we did this.

Something else now. In his first question to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition hinted to the Prime Minister that he should give me a raise, and if he wants to make a habit of this, I wish he would stay.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, he certainly does not deserve a bonus for coming up with $12 billion extra on the backs of the unemployed and the least fortunate members of our society. The unemployed are not getting any bonuses.

Let us talk about Canadian solidarity and equity, because that seems to be the new slogan of the Liberal propaganda machine on the eve of the election campaign, a slogan paid for with taxpayers' money and appearing in ads in several dailies this morning.

This is what my question to the Prime Minister is about. Is the Prime Minister going to put his own propaganda slogan "Canadian solidarity and equity" into practice by handing over the $2 billion he owes the Quebec government for harmonizing the GST?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, on the one hand, as the member is well aware, when I set the forecasts for this year, there were three months to go, the last quarter. At that time, I said that this year's budget would not exceed $19 billion. There is a possibility that it will be less than $19 billion, as I pointed out. Where does the figure of $12 billion come from? I do not know. I think it was plucked out of thin air.

As far as Quebec's claim is concerned, the member knows very well that Quebec has not lost any money. Under the formula, provinces that lost more than 5 per cent of their revenues were entitled to compensation. Quebec did not lose more than 5 per cent. Quebec is in exactly the same position as Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, our forecasts are based on figures from his own department, nowhere else. It is disgusting to hide the true size of the deficit in order to conceal one's failure to do anything about unemployment and the rise in poverty. That is the plain truth of it.

As for the GST, the Minister of Finance is the only one giving out this version. The reaction throughout Canada, and from the Premier of British Columbia in particular, whom I quote, is that: "The federal government must treat all provinces equally. If it compensates three Atlantic provinces, it must also compensate Quebec".

The Minister of Finance is in an apparently indefensible political position. What is he waiting for to admit his error and pay Quebec $2 billion so as to compensate it fairly and equitably as it is requesting?

Goods And Services Tax
Oral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have a little trouble understanding how the member can tell me I am hiding figures, when he says his own figures come from my department.

That having been said, I do not know where he has come up with the amount of $12 billion. He may have done some calculations, but unfortunately, as with other calculations, they were erroneous.

When we look at how Confederation is functioning, when we look, for example, at technological partnership, Quebec has received over 60 to 70 percent of the spinoffs to date. Quebec is now receiving 31 per cent of transfer payments, with only 24 per cent of the population, so we can see that Quebec is certainly receiving its fair share, if not more. It would be very detrimental to Quebec if the member were to continue in this vein. It is very clear that Quebec has made money by harmonizing, while the other provinces have lost more than 5 per cent.

Employment
Oral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Preston Manning Calgary Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, last month while the government was trotting out its budget, 38,000 full time jobs disappeared, 44,000 women lost either part time or full time employment, and our young people were dropping out of the workforce at a record not seen since the 1960s.

The so-called federal jobs strategy is an unmitigated disaster with 1.5 million people unemployed, 2 to 3 million underem-

ployed, 800,000 people working at two jobs to make ends meet, and 1 out of 4 workers afraid of losing their jobs.

Why does the Prime Minister not simply admit that the federal jobs strategy has been a disaster and start taking a new tack based on tax relief?