House of Commons Hansard #161 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was billion.

Topics

Points Of Order
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

The Speaker

I thank the hon. member and I consider the matter closed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

April 22nd, 1997 / 3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise this afternoon to speak on Bill C-93, the Budget Implementation Act, 1997, at third reading.

You will probably recall how proud the Minister of Finance was when he tabled his fourth budget, boasting about the fact that the deficit, which was $42 billion when the Prime Minister entrusted him with this portfolio, should have shrunk to a mere $17 billion by the end of the current fiscal year.

There is a difference between the current Liberal government, and the previous Conservative government. While the Conservative Party underestimated its deficits, the Liberal Party tends to overestimate its deficits, which means that, by March 30 next year, the deficit may actually be closer to $12 billion.

The minister is fiddling around with the numbers and using the communicating vessels principle, in other words interest rates, to his advantage. In Canada as in every other industrialized country in the world, interest rates are relatively low right now. On the more than $615 billion in cumulatve deficits or debt, one can understand that the Minister of Finance is saving a bundle each month by paying less interest than he would have to if we had interest rates of 8 per cent or 9 per cent.

However, and there is the rub, he is dipping deep into the employment insurance fund. This year, the EI fund will be generating a $5.6 billion surplus. Where does the money that generates this surplus in the EI fund come from? From the $2.95 premium paid by workers on every $100 of insurable earnings and $3.20 premium paid by employers, these premiums amounting to a payroll tax on employment.

By charging way too much, they get a surplus at the expense of workers. Indeed, this same government has decided to shorten the benefit period while at the same time increasing the number of hours-they count hours now-required to qualify for employment insurance benefits. Naturally, the benefit rate will be reduced by 1 per cent for every 20 weeks of benefits collected. After a few years, a worker who has collected employment insurance benefits for more than 20 weeks will see his benefits reduced by 1 per cent increments down to 50 per cent of his insurable earnings.

So, on the one hand, the Minister of Finance is keeping the employees' and employers' contributions to the employment insurance fund way too high while, on the other hand, he is making it extremely difficult for potential recipients to qualify for benefits. At this rate, within a few years, the fund will be overflowing.

However, this is another way this government can shift its deficit onto the provinces. The unemployment rate tends to go down because people are no longer on the list of those actively looking for work; however, meanwhile, the number of welfare recipients has been on the rise for some years in all of the provinces.

This is the case in Quebec, where the unemployment rate has gone down, while the number of welfare recipients has gone up because, in many cases, people are no longer eligible for employment insurance benefits and are still without a job. The result is that these people end up on the welfare rolls.

The Minister of Finance also reduced transfers to the provinces, including social transfers for post-secondary education and health. This triggered a chain reaction whereby all the provinces had to make other taxpayers, particularly municipalities, school boards and hospitals, shoulder part of the burden dumped on them by the finance minister.

What is really serious is the inequity of the minister's approach to balancing his budget within three years. The most blatant examples are undoubtedly the abolition of the Western Grain Transportation Act, in the prairies, and the harmonization of the infamous GST, which the Prime Minister himself promised to abolish, to scrap, as he said so eloquently. To scrap means to tear up, to throw in the garbage.

The Prime Minister often said: "I will scrap the GST". Four years later, what has been the cost of scrapping the GST? It cost at least a byelection in Hamilton East, since the Deputy Prime Minister had pledged to resign in the first 12 months of a Liberal government if the GST was not abolished.

It took a lot longer than 12 months for her to resign her seat in the House of Commons, and the official opposition had to remind her for several weeks of the promise she had made, with the help of the media, which ran almost daily clips of her saying: "I promise to resign if we have not abolished the GST in the first 12 months".

Obviously, it took several weeks, several months, and in June of last year she handed in her resignation, because a promise had not been kept, a promise that can of course be found in the red book, which I note by the way has become as rare on Parliament Hill as Chairman Mao's little red book has in China; people made a point of learning Mao's book by heart. My colleagues in the Liberal Party also made a point of memorizing their little red book. What I would like is for my Liberal friends opposite to give me a few copies. I will need them for my next election campaign, and nobody wants to give me a copy.

I throw out an appeal to everyone, as they do on the quiz show Tous pour un : if you have half a dozen red books, I need them in the riding of Frontenac-Mégantic to give to my Liberal opponent, Manon Lecours, to read over again before she rushes headlong into the next election campaign that will be announced next Sunday.

I am certain that nobody will provide me with these books because they are so ashamed of them. I urge Liberal candidates in the next election not to lapse into the Pinocchio syndrome described in the book of the same name written by my friend, André Pratte, a reporter with La Presse . You must have read it, Mr. Speaker. He mentioned a number of famous comments made by our friends across the way. He gave examples of frequently lengthening noses on the faces of some of you, my Liberal friends, as the result of past untruths.

To get back to Bill C-93, I should point out that the Minister of Finance applies cuts sometimes unevenly, sometimes unfairly. I was talking about the GST, the harmonization with the three maritime provinces, three small Canadian provinces. To help them swallow the pill, he gave them $960 million. The GST has lost its name. Now it is the HST, the harmonized sales tax. The people in the maritimes will forget the GST in a few months or years. They will be calling it the HST.

In Quebec, the late Robert Bourassa, a federalist premier, with his good friend the former Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, another federalist, agreed to harmonize the GST and the Quebec sales tax. I recall very clearly, when I was a farmer, having to complete two forms for the GST and the QST.

In 1991, I was very proud, I even telephoned my MNA to congratulate him on harmonizing with the federal government, since we would be completing only one form. Quebec collects the GST for the federal government, and, at the end of the month, makes a cheque out to the Minister of Finance of Canada.

The only advantage the Government of Quebec receives is a split of the costs involved in collecting, whereas the maritime provinces get $960 for this same harmonization. Worse yet, the provinces do not do the collecting, the federal government does. It looks after the forms and the investigations and charges the provinces nothing for doing so. A double standard.

The Quebec department of finance fairly calculated the cost of having the same privileges in Quebec. The Minister of Finance's government would have to pay $2 billion if it were going to treat everyone fairly.

We in the Bloc Quebecois will pester all Liberal candidates in Quebec to be fair and to make commitments to the voters. As I said, it was utterly unfair of this government to use the WGTA to reduce its deficit. The Western Grain Transportation Act will save the Canadian treasury $560 million per year.

To sugarcoat it for western grain producers, the same finance minister paid $2.9 billion in compensation, including $1 billion paid directly to the producers, under the table. He sent them a cheque and told them: "You are not required to claim this amount on your next income tax return, and no TP4 or T4 will be issued to include with your return".

It is the same thing with bribes: one is not required to tell the tax man about them. The government paid producers under the table to sugarcoat a bitter tasting pill. It is appalling.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Our hon. speaker, for one, would not take it.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

I certainly hope not.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

At least I do not think he would.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

It is appalling. There is a double standard here, because 48 per cent of dairy producers are in Quebec, and the Minister of Finance told them: "We are cutting the milk subsidy to commercial milk producers". In 1994-95, the subsidy was $5.42 per hectolitre, that is to say that dairy producers were paid $5.42 per 100 litres of commercial milk. As we know, commercial milk is under Quebec's control.

The subsidy was cut by 80 cents in 1995-96 and by 82 cents the following year. In five years, it will be all gone. By the year 2000, it will be down to 76 cents, and by 2001, it will be all gone. By August 1, 2001, there will be nothing left.

Quebec dairy producers are taking a $168 million loss. This cut is made in Quebec, which is a big milk producing province as compared to the western provinces, without a cent in compensation being paid. Quebec dairy producers are not getting anything to make the cut more palatable, when $2.9 billion, almost $3 billion,

was paid to western grain producers when the Western Grain Transportation Act, commonly known as the Crow rate, was abolished. That is appalling and unjustified.

What will be the impact on Quebec farmers? It will bring up the price of butter or cheese. According to a comprehensive study, whenever the price of butter goes up 10 per cent, consumer demand drops by 7 per cent. And 48 per cent of the milk used to make butter comes from Quebec's dairy producers.

I see the hon. member for Pierrefonds-Dollard, who is a city dweller. He is not affected. However, his voters are consumers and they will pay 40 cents more for a pound of cheddar and 30 cents more for a pound of butter.

In a wealthy neighbourhood such as Dollard, this is not a problem. However, it is a different story in poor areas. It does create problems. Indeed, the reason the demand drops by 7 per cent is that the poor buy less butter, or no butter at all. They may have to use margarine, fat or something else.

The same is true in the case of cheese. When the price of cheese goes up 10 per cent, demand drops by 4 per cent. As the official opposition critic on agricultural issues, I look after the interests of dairy producers. However, I am well aware that, ultimately, consumers are the ones who will have to make up for this government's cuts.

I want to go back to the Pinocchio syndrome. Some years ago, I was in my living room, listening to the news. Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister and Statistics Canada announced that, the previous week, there were one million Canadians unemployed. Back then, the rat pack sat on this side of the House. Things were bad: "One million unemployed and the Prime Minister is not doing anything. We want jobs. We want our young people to find work. You are rotten. You do not work for Canadians".

Today, there are 1.5 million unemployed. There are three million children in Canada who live in poverty and who do not eat three meals a day. We are not talking about Zaire, but Canada. What is the Minister of Finance doing? What is the Prime Minister doing about these children living in poverty?

Last week, I met a teacher in Montreal who told me that several children in her class arrive at school without having had breakfast and that they barely have anything to eat for lunch.

It is sad to watch this government go about its business. After three years and seven months, Canadians will have the opportunity to elect a new government, and I hope they will. I hope that, on Sunday, April 27, the Prime Minister will hand in his government's resignation to the Governor General, so that voters can teach him a good lesson.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, having listened to the member over the last 20 minutes, he has mentioned a number of things, some of which I would like to comment on and which require some clarification.

I am going to talk a little bit about the GST. I am sure it is a subject we are going to hear an awful lot about in the next election.

In the last budget the Liberal government announced that there would be no tax cuts until we could afford them and we could sustain them. No tax cuts. In the next election there is no question that the Reform Party will be running on tax cuts. The Conservatives will be running on tax cuts. The Liberal government is going to say no tax cuts.

It is not enough simply to look at the bottom of the end result. The Reform Party and the Conservative Party are a little bit different; one is when it is balanced and one is immediate. There are conditions. The situation is there are conditions and some other matters.

The member must understand that we cannot use just one phrase or one word to say what represents the position. We have to look at all of the terms and conditions that are associated with tax cuts or no tax cuts.

The Liberal Party has said that we are going to have tax cuts when we can afford them. We are not opposed to tax cuts; we are going to have them. Having established that, let us talk about the word "scrap". Canadians are going to want to know more of the facts about what happened.

If we go back to the beginning of this Parliament, the finance committee was immediately asked to undertake a study of the alternatives to the consumption tax, the GST. I participated in this all-party committee. It held 35 meetings with hundreds of witnesses. It analysed and assessed for months and months at least 25 alternatives to the GST, including a modified GST or other forms of consumption tax. All members know that because all parties were represented in the finance committee.

Let us think about this. If in fact the government's position was to scrap the GST with no replacement, to just get rid of it the way those members have been trying to suggest, then why is it that the finance committee spent almost a year studying alternatives? Why did the public or the opposition parties not go ballistic about why we were breaking our promise of scrapping it with no alternatives? They did not do that. They did not complain when we were studying alternatives because they knew and Canadians knew that the undertaking of the government was to replace the GST with a revenue neutral-meaning not getting rid of the $18 billion-harmonized system with the provinces.

Some Canadians will say that they did not see the red book. I understand that because there were not enough produced for each and every Canadian. However, each and every member who ran on that platform included the extract in their literature. I did and I know my constituents saw it.

In addition, all of the media reported on the platforms of each and every party including in detail the proposal to replace the GST with a revenue neutral harmonized tax. It was reported in the press.

Did some members of Parliament use a word or a phrase to describe the whole platform? Yes, that is true. Even in this House I know there is at least one member of the cabinet who stood up and said that we would scrap it. However, to suggest that to use a word or a simple description of a platform policy is not to be taken in isolation, one has to also impute that it involves the full conditions and terms under which it was said.

I will conclude by asking the member a question.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My distinguished colleague has already said enough that it will take up the rest of the time allotted me to reply. You will understand that, without wanting to get into a debate with my colleague-

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Ringuette-Maltais)

I would like to remind the hon. members that the 10 minutes are for questions or comments.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member wants to respond and I am going to let him. I would simply ask-

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
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3:40 p.m.

Bloc

René Canuel Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is entirely normal that he make a comment and then ask a question, but the comment must be about what the hon. member said and not about any old topic.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
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3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, the member was talking about scrapping the GST but the other member was not here. I forgive him for not being in attendance to hear the speech.

However, in courtesy to the member, he knows that the Quebec government did not wait until the legislation came forward to harmonize its provincial consumption tax with the federal tax. It went ahead and made arrangements to implement it. Quebec did not wait because it knew the advantages. It knew that through harmonization it would have an input tax credit available on the provincial component of the harmonized sales tax.

Is the member aware that exports from Quebec to other provinces and outside Canada enjoy an input tax credit on the provincial sales tax component of the combined tax which the other provinces did not enjoy before the HST?

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Guy Chrétien Frontenac, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind my distinguished colleague, the member for Mississauga South, a good-hearted man, a man of courage and incredible loyalty, that we are not in politics to fool the voters. You can fool people once, but you cannot fool them all the time.

When we look at the latest surveys on how much confidence people have in various professions, doctors top the list, used car salesmen are at the bottom and one up from them are politicians. Do you know why? Because certain politicians often suffer from the Pinocchio syndrome, as my colleague has just shown. He says for all to hear: "We never promised to abolish the GST". That is a lie. I do not say he is a liar, I say it is a lie.

All the CBC and TVA footage showed the Prime Minister of this country saying: "We will scrap the GST". And the Deputy Prime Minister, who was one of the rat pack and who held a major post in the last election campaign in 1993 said: "I will resign in the first 12 months if we do not abolish the GST". It took 28 months. We had to give her a shove. This resignation cost the public $500,000, so that she could turn around and get re-elected with a much smaller majority in Hamilton East.

I ask my distinguished colleague, a good-hearted and loyal man as I was saying earlier, to find me six copies of his red book in French, because I need them badly in Frontenac-Mégantic for the next election.

Budget Implementation Act, 1997
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Reform

Ed Harper Simcoe Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-93.

First I would like to address some of the comments which were made a moment ago by the hon. member for Mississauga South. He was trying to defend the government's position on the GST. He suggested that it might be an election issue. I assure all members it will be a major issue in the coming election.

The promise that was made in the red book, without reading the weasel words or the fine print, to scrap, abolish or get rid of the GST was made by a government in full knowledge of the difficulties that would be put in place trying to do that.

When he says we cannot take a few isolated comments out of context, I remind him and all members that the current finance minister apologized to the Canadian people for the government's lack of performance on the GST.

Not only did the finance minister apologize, but the Deputy Prime Minister resigned. A member of cabinet resigned over their failure to do what they had promised the Canadian people.

Talking about the resignation, I have to mention that it was done only after a poll was taken in the riding to make sure that the Deputy Prime Minister would be re-elected, hardly a move to address the cynicism that exists between the politicians and the voters. Her denial to do what she should have done for over a period of a week certainly hurt politicians, not just the government.

We had the Prime Minister who, in a town hall meeting, took exception to people who understood what they were saying differently and challenged that they should have read the red book.

Again on the GST, the government talks about harmonization. While in opposition the Liberals fought harmonization. As a matter of fact, the current finance minister was very strong in his opposition to harmonization. He said that once it is in there, we will never get rid of it. How he has changed his position now that he has moved from the opposition to the government.

In order to save face, to try to put some kind of positive spin on the GST, we get the $1 billion incentive to the three Atlantic provinces to come on board with harmonization. That is $1 billion which will be paid by taxpayers right across this country.

In the province of Ontario, the Ontario treasurer resisted harmonization on the basis that it would shift the tax burden on to Ontario taxpayers. It would increase it by $3 billion. He rightly resisted it.

When we talk about the GST, it indeed will be an election issue. It is one that we have to be honest about. I do not think the government, in making the promise, was honest. Its members are still not replying to the reasons why they did not fulfil their promise in being truthful with the Canadian people.

We are talking about the budget as it relates to the deficit and the debt this afternoon. It is one of the main reasons for my seeking office in 1993. I was very concerned about the insanity of the annual deficits that both the Liberals and the Conservatives had been running, $30 billion, $40 billion overspending resulting in now $600 billion of debt.

My concern was not so much for me as it was for my children and my grandchildren. I realized that while I had been in business over the years, I had allowed the governments of the day to engage in this overspending. They had mortgaged the future of my children and my grandchildren.

We were enjoying the benefits of being the number one country in the world and enjoying the very best in social programs but we were not paying our way. We were mortgaging their future. They were going to be paying our tab for being the number one country in the world, which we are, but we have done it on the backs of our children and our grandchildren.

That is something that we should be ashamed of. I am here to do all I can to reverse that, to bring some fiscal sanity to this place. I am hoping we will be able to do that.

When I think of this fourth budget that we are dealing with today, I recall the first budget, the second budget and the third budget. I have to go back to the first budget and say what a shame it was that the government wasted that first budget. It did absolutely nothing to deal with the serious problem of the deficit we had been running which at that point was almost $500 billion.

As a matter of fact, when the Liberals ran in that campaign they made light of the deficit and debt by telling Canadian taxpayers that while it is a problem, do not be worried. It is okay. Do not fret. It is something they would look after. In the first budget the Liberals failed to address it any meaningful way. As difficult as it is to believe, they actually worsened the situation because they lowered the cigarette tax. They caved in to the smugglers. They said they have to deal with the smugglers and they reduced the tax on cigarettes. They were more concerned abut the smugglers with no regard for the health and cost implications to health care for Canadians.

I found it absolutely unbelievable to see the current health minister stand in the House and talk about the concern he has for the young people in our country who are smoking and that "we have to do all we can to make sure it does not happen". However, he is a member of the government that reduced the taxes on cigarettes and by doing so encouraged thousands of young people to take up smoking and put their future health at great risk. I found it extremely hard to believe when the health minister stood up today trying to show concern for the health of our young people, when by their actions they started many young people down that road.

The price of cigarettes was a major deterrent. I saw it in my own riding after the tax was reduced. When I drove by a high school I could see a significant number of young people smoking. The numbers increased because they could afford to buy cigarettes again and they were delighted. I find his concern now about the health of our young people a little difficult to believe. Of course, there was no thought of the future cost implications to our health budgets.

The second budget was a bit of an awakening. In the second budget the finance minister began to make a connection that the

deficit was resulting in high unemployment, in high taxes and was perhaps more serious than the government thought it was back in 1993 during the campaign.

Even at that point, the government still was not even serious enough to really tackle the deficit and come out with a program to eliminate it over a specific period of time. I recall very well that there was a warning issued by Moody's to the finance minister. Moody's told the finance minister, I believe before the second budget, that he had a very serious problem. "You have been living beyond your means. You have a huge debt load and you are going to have to sell your bonds to maintain this lavish lifestyle you have enjoyed. We are concerned enough about your position that we are considering downgrading your bonds. We are telling you this because we want you to know how serious we think the situation is and how it is going to reflect in the advice that we give to people you borrow from, because you will have to borrow".

There was another piece of information given to our finance minister at that time. He ignored the first and he also ignored the advice that he had to set a target date to balance the books. This rolling two year target where somewhere down the road we may get to a balanced budget is not going to fly with the people buying bonds. Give us a commitment. Give us a date. Of course, we know what happened when the finance minister ignored that advice. There were many who shot the messenger. Moody's was giving us good advice but there were those in government who asked who these young finance people in the red suspenders were to tell them what they should be doing. As a result of that advice being ignored, our bonds were downgraded with the potential to cost us more in interest payments.

In the third budget we did get some action. We heard again from the finance minister these deficits and debts were a serious problem. I am sure he was having a battle within his own party about whether to cut or spend more on social programs. Thank goodness his position prevailed and there were some limited cuts, but not nearly enough to eliminate the deficit and balance the books.

Now we get to the fourth budget, the budget we are talking about today. As difficult as I find this to believe, I actually heard cheering from the other side when the finance minister stood up in the House and bragged about the fact that we will only be overspending by $19 billion. This is an accomplishment to be recognized with great applause that we are now only spending $19 billion more than we are taking in in taxes. This is an accomplishment.

There was even the suggestion that the battle is won. It is over. Now we can start spending again. We do not need to worry about it. We have won the battle. I have not heard anybody in the private sector saying that the battle is over. Is $19 billion of overspending something to applaud? I cannot believe it, but they did. I heard it.

Then we look at the other side of this $19 billion of overspending. We are now approaching $600 billion of debt. I did not hear any applause when that was mentioned. As a matter of fact, that may not have been mentioned too strongly, as indeed it should not have been. This Liberal government has increased our federal debt from $500 billion to $600 billion.

I heard government members saying in 1993 not to worry about the deficit and the debt, then during their term of office they realized that we were right and they were wrong and the deficit and the debt are a problem. I heard what they were saying about OAS and health care, the great defenders of health care and OAS. They are now doing far more, as we talked about.

NAFTA and free trade they opposed when in opposition. Now they are the biggest free traders we have ever seen. The Prime Minister spends as much time out of the country as he does in the country. Free trade has been good for Canada and NAFTA has been good for Canada.

The government does not know how to create jobs. The Liberals did not know how to create them when they were in opposition. They are now starting come around but it is a complete flip-flop from what they were saying when they campaigned in 1993 on all those issues.

Credibility is going to be an issue in this coming election. I suggest there is not a whole lot of it on the government side. The Liberals are going to have great difficulty just on those two major promises that were made to the people to get their vote, job creation and getting rid of the GST. Those two promises, regardless of the 173 others in the famous red ink book, are the ones on which Canadians gave Liberals their trust. It was based on both of those. They have failed the Canadian people on both those major promises. They are going to answer for it in a few weeks.

Promises made, promises broken. Canadians do not like to have promises broken, not when it involves jobs and not when it involves their pocketbooks. The voters are about to have their say. There will be some very surprised people. The polls indicating some popularity right now are paper thin.

This was an election budget to try to calm the waters and plug the holes in the dam, and there are some pretty big holes in that dam. Going into this election the voters will be asking, and we will be encouraging them, are they better off today than in 1993.

I do not think we are going to find very many voters from coast to coast who will answer in the affirmative to that question. They will take a look at that and say "you are absolutely right, I am not and yet I was told I was going to be".

They will look at jobs. They were promised jobs. The facts are there are 1.5 million unemployed today, 2 million to 3 million Canadians underemployed today, one in four of those who have a job worried about whether they will hold that job.

There have been 77 straight months of unemployment in excess of 9 per cent. Am I better off today relative to jobs? I think not. That is about the same number as when the Liberals promised jobs, jobs, jobs to get elected in 1993. They have not produced them. They will have to answer for it.

Let us go to taxes now. The GST is a tax. Canadians hate that tax. Canadians heard the words "we're going to get rid of it" and the weasel words, "scrap, abolish, get rid of, read the red book if you can find one". They were looking for tax relief. What the government has given the taxpayers is 37 tax increases and it has not scrapped the GST.

That is why voters are so cynical about politicians. They do not have jobs. They do have the GST and their taxes have increased. All we hear is that there have not been direct personal tax increases, which is true, but there have been 37 indirect tax increases with the granddaddy of them all the CPP payroll tax increase. Some can call it an investment but it is a payroll tax and it is a tax increase.

The Fraser Institute has just released a study which states that the average Canadian family has taken a $3,000 pay reduction since the Liberals have been in office. That has come about because most Canadians have seen their salaries frozen and in that same timeframe Canadians have had 37 tax increases. The reality is the average Canadian family is $3,000 poorer than it was in 1993. Again, am I better off today than I was in 1993? I think not.

The record is there. We have record consumer bankruptcies. It was almost 80,000, just 79,000 and change which is up by 22 per cent since 1996. Am I better off today? There are 80,000 consumers who will say no very loudly.

Business bankruptcies are up by 7 per cent to 14,229. Canadian household debt as a percentage of disposable income was 54 per cent in 1985 and is 91 per cent in 1995. Am I better off today than I was in 1993? I do not think so. Canadians are asking themselves, "if this is a feel good budget, why don't I feel good?"

In this atmosphere the government is saying that low interest rates will get the economy moving, that there will be no tax cuts because low interest rates will do it. We have record bankruptcies and record consumer debt. How in the world will low interest rates get the economy moving? Canadians have lost their borrowing power. They are in debt right up to here.

However, we should remember that when the Liberals talk about low interest rates they are talking about going into debt which is one thing they know a great deal about. We have to give them credit for that. They know about going into debt. That is what they are encouraging the Canadian people to do: "Borrow, borrow more. You can borrow your way to prosperity. Just go deeper in debt". That is a terrible message to send to the Canadian people. We should be asking the Canadian people to be fiscally responsible, to not spend what they do not have because future generations will be paying for it. Of course, the government cannot do that because it cannot even do it.

The low interest rates factor is a two-edged sword because not everybody benefits from low interest rates. There are those who do but there are many who do not. I am thinking of those who are living on fixed incomes. Across the board tax cuts help all Canadians. That is what will get our economy moving. That is what will create the jobs Canadians are so desperately looking for. The government has not made the connection between high taxes and high unemployment.

We have been going down this road of government spending and high taxes for 25 years and it has not worked. Why in the world are we not looking for a better way, a different way? What we have been doing has not been working. The unemployment numbers support this claim and something has to be done about it.

There is a lack of vision, a lack of ideas. It is the status quo. The Liberals have been saying: "We have always done it this way so we have to keep going down this road. We can't do it any differently. We just don't have the vision or the plan to do it". I am proud to say that we have a vision and we are going to be offering it to the Canadian voters in the coming election. I believe there will be the change in this place that is so desperately needed.