House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was finance.

Topics

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the same time as we are proposing an emergency plan for the next six months, which is an ad hoc initiative by the federal government and not a recurring yearly measure, we have been noticing, particularly in the past two years, a tendency by the federal government to accumulate significant surpluses every year.

This is due to the federal tax structure. For example, in Quebec, 60% of the total personal income tax paid by Quebecers goes to the federal government, compared to 40% to the Quebec government.

The federal government is enjoying incredible fiscal capacity. And personal income tax is the type of taxation that increases the most rapidly over time. This means that there is truly a constant increase in tax revenues collected from individuals.

Because of this distortion in the tax system, the federal government finds itself year after year with a large structural surplus in its coffers, while responsibility for health, income security and particularly education needs falls to the Government of Quebec and the provinces of Canada.

We are therefore stuck with this skewed system, which must be corrected. There is a way to do that. We saw it used in the 1960s and particularly in the 1970s. The tax fields of the federal government and of the provinces were redefined.

In other words, the federal government gave out tax points. It gave the provinces additional tax capacity and it partially withdrew from the tax field in order to allow the provinces to collect additional money so they could meet their primary obligations, which are health and education.

Today we are back in the same situation we faced in the 1960s and 1970s. The federal government has excess tax capacity but the provinces are facing growing and inescapable demands in the fields of health, education and income security.

The Séguin commission is looking at ways of addressing this tax imbalance. We have specific proposals for a phasedin solution: gradually transfer tax points to the government of Quebec, starting with the portion the federal government is now paying in cash to the government of Quebec and the provinces for the Canada social transfer, the transfer for funding health, education and social assistance.

A portion of these transfers was already handed over to the provinces in the 1960s but there remains a cash portion of almost $2 billion for the government of Quebec.

This would be a good place to start.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot on his speech. I have a question in connection with his last remarks.

Is this concern over the federal-provincial transfer unique to Quebec or is it a general concern of the other provinces?

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, my answer is that the concern is generalized. For some two years now, every time the first ministers and provincial finance ministers meet, this has been a concern.

At their last meeting in Montreal, the provincial finance ministers welcomed Quebec's proposal. It was to analyze the wisdom of having the tax point transfer accompanied by, for example, changes in transfer payments. To some provinces, tax points are not worth $260 million as they might be for Quebec or $450 million for Ontario, for example. They are worth less.

A maritime province, for example, would suffer with a tax point transfer because with tax points it would not get nearly what it does under the Canada social transfer. The reason is a matter of the relative wealth and population of these provinces. Generally speaking, the principle of transferring tax points was well received in Canada following the suggestion of the Quebec minister of finance.

However, one thing was agreed to by all. At the moment, there is too much money in federal coffers and this will be the case every year, despite the recent events. Quebec and the Canadian provinces have responsibilities in areas where there are desperate and unavoidable needs, in the areas of health and education, for example.

The federal government cannot set these needs to one side and look good by waving about billions of dollars in surpluses, which, we must not forget, come out of taxpayers' pockets. There is too much money here because there are taxpayers who pay too much tax and because the provinces do not have enough of the pie to meet their obligations as set out in the Canadian constitution, which these people claim to want to defend.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is one issue that is very important to the Bloc Quebecois and that is employment insurance.

I would like the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot to tell us if he has any suggestions for the program. I believe he does and I would like to give him the opportunity to expand on this topic.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

Noon

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, yes, our $5 billion emergency plan to support the economy and employment contains some of the measures from the unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. These measures were aimed at reforming employment insurance.

Among our proposals, a billion dollars would be set aside for the most urgent reforms, including changes for older workers. Since the POWA program disappeared there has been nothing to come to the assistance of workers aged 55 and older, a bracket that has been hit with massive layoffs by big business.

During an economic downturn, casual workers are the first to feel the crunch, workers who have less experience. This obviously affects young people and women more. Our plan to boost the economy contains extra measures to help youth and women survive the economic crisis.

There is also an increase in benefits for low income workers. Currently,employment insurance coverage stands at 55% but if one is a low income worker and has the misfortune of living in a resource based region that has suffered from the global downturn, one is doubly penalized. We are asking that the coverage for low income workers be increased.

In addition to these special measures that take into account the urgent nature of assistance for those who will be affected by the economic slowdown there is, of course, the whole issue of employment insurance reforms. Today we have a rare opportunity in this parliament. We have a unanimous report from a committee made up of members from all political parties. Why does the government not acknowledge the needs and carry out these much needed reforms?

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

Noon

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for St. Hyacinthe--Bagot for his speech. My colleague has been described by Canadian economic analysts as one of the top economists ever in the history of this House. He is known for his accurate and credible predictions.

Since the events of September 11, the economy on the world scale has been seriously shaken. Most experts believe that nothing is the same as before. At a time when our future was already uncertain in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks and with obvious signs of economic downturn on the horizon, the Bloc Quebec has acted in a responsible manner by suggesting a number of measures to the Minister of Finance to boost the economy.

Just recently the minister was still issuing the challenge to us to make some targeted and highly detailed suggestions in advance of his December budget. So the Bloc responded with alacrity, and presented its $5 billion economic stabilization plan. Our objective is clear: to attenuate the economic downturn and the loss of thousands of jobs resulting from the events of September 11.

As the minister delights in repeating in this House, and according to the witnesses heard at the Standing Committee on Finance, the Bloc's plan is without a deficit. I repeat, if that is what worries the government, we are anti-deficit.

Application of this plan relies on the principles of economic stimulation, increased aid to the provinces by handing tax points back over to them, paying back the debt and a zero deficit.

I would like to take this opportunity to mention the work being done by the Quebec minister of finance, Pauline Marois, who will be presenting her budget this afternoon. She will do so with courage, despite the limited openness of her federal counterpart, and the cool reception the federal finance minister afforded her this past weekend.

As the minister is well aware, he has in his coffers a surplus of several billion dollars. Even if he intends to make national security his priority, the battle against terrorism represents an expenditure of somewhere around one billionn dollars. These expenditures moreover, in large part, will not take place before the start of the next fiscal year. He therefore most certainly appears to have sufficient reserves to cope with unexpected expenditures and to sustain the economy.

It is all very fine for the minister to argue that his objective is to balance his budget and pay the heavy bill for national security, for he still has plenty of money left in his sock.

Let us take a closer look at the situation. Despite the economic downturns anticipated in the third and fourth quarters, this year the average growth for 2001 is expected to be 1.5%. At the same time, inflation is going down while unemployment is on the rise. And the Minister of Finance, true to himself, is underestimating budget surpluses. He began the year with an anticipated surplus of about $8.3 billion. An informed person would expect a $12 billion surplus and would not be far off the actual figure.

The surplus stood at $10.7 billion after the first four months of the year and at $11.1 billion after five months. When he talks about having limited leeway, the Minister of Finance is undermining his own credibility.

He really should seriously consider the plan that we presented to him to stabilize the economy. It is a serious and responsible proposal that would not put the country back into a deficit. It is so effective that the minister would have all the necessary leeway to fund security costs, support the economy and even pay off part of the debt. How? The minister challenged us and we met his challenge.

Under the Bloc Quebecois' plan, a mere $5 billion would be used for the following: $1.85 billion to support small and medium size businesses; $1.15 billion for employment insurance; $1 billion for various sectoral initiatives; and $1 billion for security and defence.

This plan is not a public relations exercise to reassure the public. It is a proactive and targeted measure.

I feel the duty to remind Canadians and, more importantly, the Minister of Finance, that history has proven that he is incapable of predicting his deficits because he inflates them artificially and he continually underestimates his budget surpluses.

Quebecers and Canadians should know that according to figures published by Canada's Department of Finance subsequent to the budget years, the federal government has accumulated more than $30 billion in budget surpluses since 1996.

Unlike the government forecasts, the Bloc Quebecois' forecasts were accurate on several occasions. With his misleading forecasts, the Minister of Finance is skewing the true picture of Canadian public finances. Accounting standards being what they are, the minister ends up allocating the entire unexpected surplus to pay off the debt. We understand that repaying the debt is a priority but it is one priority among many others.

Need I remind members that this past year's federal surplus was taken in large part from the pockets of workers? We are talking about $7.5 billion taken from the employment insurance fund surplus. In August 2001 the fund's surplus reached $39 billion.

With respect to forecasting, the Bloc Quebecois believes that, despite negative growth over the next months, the government will have a generous surplus: $15.4 billion with zero growth, and $13.6 billion with a negative growth of 2%.

Being prudent, responsible and realistic, the Bloc Quebecois has decided to go with the most conservative hypothesis: that the surplus will be $13.6 billion.

We are suggesting that the minister go ahead with specific, temporary measures to accelerate investments in order to give momentum to small and medium sized businesses. As requested by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which never got a reply from the government, instalment payments for SMBs could be deferred. The government of Quebec has already done this, giving SMBs some breathing space, some liquidity. All the government has to do is pay the interest, which would have a minor impact on the budget. It could also at least reduce EI premiums. We suggest that the minister give businesses a contribution holiday for the next two months.

The effects of these combined measures would be appreciable. They would put $1.8 billion back into the economy; $750 million for workers and even more for businesses.

The Bloc Quebecois is proposing active and passive measures to help unemployed workers. Active measures, such as investing the maximum in active job measures, or 0.8% of the payroll, or $640 million Canada wide, would encourage entrepreneurship and training.

The Bloc Quebecois is also proposing that help be given to those who will bear the brunt of the economic downturn. The minister must immediately implement the recommendations contained in the report tabled by the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development in May and adopted unanimously. To that end, he will have to convince his colleague, the Minister of Human Resources Development, of the wisdom of these recommendations, which deal with older workers, low income workers, young workers, and support to the regions, and which propose increasing benefit periods from 45 to 50 weeks.

Since my time is quickly running ou, I will wrap up my remarks. I also wish to put forward an amendment to the amendment.

It must be clear to members that the minister can do more than merely protect transfers already budgeted. There is room for investment in health, in infrastructures and elsewhere. His budget should tackle the issue of health care.

It would be quite simply immoral of the minister to pour all these surpluses into paying down the debt when the provinces are grappling with health care costs which will not be going down.

In closing, I would like to move as follows:

That the amendment be amended by adding, between the words “tax reductions” and “restore confidence”, the following: “while improving the employment insurance plan”.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The Chair declares the amendment to the amendment to be in order.

The hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to congratulate the member for Drummond on the work she does in finance.

Last week I went with her to visit a business in her riding, as I was on my way back to Lévis. I heard from a number of people in her riding who commented on the member's effectiveness and assistance to the businesses in her riding, which until recently had a low rate of unemployment. Despite that, she is especially dedicated.

In her remarks she spoke of support for business. Despite the dynamism of business since the attacks of September 11, some industries have been affected, such as aviation and tourism. I know many people visit Drummondville to see the heritage village and to take part in the festival. These organizations are having difficulty at the moment.

I have a question for my colleague on help to small and medium sized businesses, which create 80% of jobs in Quebec. Could she talk about these measures a little?

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière for his kind words.

It is true that the riding of Drummond has experienced extraordinary economic growth. Small and medium sized businesses in the riding are doing rather well but they are adversely affected by the economic slowdown. They are concerned about this. Most of these businesses are in traditional sectors and they export 80% of their production to the United States. Everyone is concerned about the situation.

We are also affected by globalization. Some businesses invest in our region, which makes up for some layoffs, but people who have worked for 25, 30 or 35 years for a company are losing their jobs because of globalization. A company will shut down and move its operations to Mexico because workers there are paid less to do the same job.

This is very disrupting. Sometimes as many as 400, 500 or 600 workers can be laid off. The textile industry, in particular, is very vulnerable.

These workers include people who have been with a company for 30 or 35 years. These are older people who have worked at the same job throughout their adult life. They have a very hard time qualifying for another job because under our rules they are considered to be older workers. These people, who are in their fifties, often have children who are still in university, which is very costly. Unfortunately, since the federal government abolished the POWA program, they have nothing to turn to.

These measures, which were included in the unanimous report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development signed by all committee members, including Liberal members, would have given some hope to those who have been laid off because of the circumstances, the economic slowdown and globalization.

I may not have answered the hon. member's question specifically but I wanted to stress the fact that it is a very important measure for workers and for all Quebecers and Canadians.

The government absolutely must restore this measure. It should be changed, as we said in the past, but it should be restored to support people who lose their jobs.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Serge Marcil Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I read something today on which I would like the hon. member of the opposition to comment. I share her concerns about older workers. This is a growing phenomenon, particularly concerning workers in industries like the textile industry, whose level of education is not very high.

Would it be totally normal under the circumstances for the government to avoid investing in services per se, since investing in government services will only increase its expenditures in the service sector and not necessarily stimulate employment?

Ought not the government nstead focus its efforts more on supporting the economy, which is supporting business, rather than reinvesting in services?

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, such an idea surprises me a great deal. It has been proven in the health field that investment in health services and health care stimulates the economy.

Everyone knows that poverty has negative effects on health. Often the poor have health needs because of a number of different factors. Investing in health care, investing in resources, that stimulates the economy.

At this point in time, the government really does have the means. The proposed plan is in the order of $13 billion. Those are very conservative figures. Using $5 billion leaves it with $8 billion. The government need not worry. We also know very well how the Minister of Finance operates. All surplus funds go toward the debt, while the provinces are in obvious need.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say a few words this morning on this matter. It is a subject of great importance to the people of Canada.

There is a slowdown in the economy and it started before September 11. September 11 accelerated the slowdown in many ways across the entire world, not just in Canada. Figures released yesterday show that in the last three or four months the economy has slowed down by 0.4% in the United States. That is having a profound impact on Canada as well.

Yesterday the Canadian dollar closed at its lowest level in history. It was down to less than 63¢. A number of years ago the Canadian dollar was worth about $1.04 American. It went down to the range of 73¢ to 74 cents about 20 years ago. Then in 1990-91 it went back up to the range of 83¢ to 84¢. Now it is down to about 63¢.

We are facing a looming economic crisis. There is a decrease in government revenues and we are facing a recession. The recession will probably be a long one and not a short one. We have to figure out what we will do to navigate through these stormy economic times.

During the last five weeks, as a member of the finance committee I have spent a lot of time in prebudget hearings. We have heard from many Canadians from coast to coast. We travelled for two weeks. We were sitting here in Ottawa this morning. We sat here two, three and four weeks ago. We will be sitting next week. We are hearing from all kinds of Canadians and associations.

It is interesting that we hardly hear anything at all now about more tax cuts or paying down the national debt. Most Canadians are saying that the government's number one priority should be security because of what happened on September 11. In addition to security and extra money for security in the RCMP and customs and so on, the other priority should be building a stronger economy and creating jobs for each and every Canadian.

The budget that the Minister of Finance will bring down in a few weeks should concentrate on, in addition to security, how we build a stronger country, how we create more wealth and eventually create more equality in this great country of ours. That has to be the priority of the Minister of Finance when he brings down the budget.

We have to once again make this our country, make this our Canada. We must build a stronger Canada where we have security and prosperity for each and every Canadian.

Since the summer there have been tens of thousands of layoffs. The most recent layoffs were yesterday when 2,000 people received notice at the CIBC that they would be laid off.

What do we have to do? We have to do seven or eight different things. We have to put a lot more money into research and development, training, education and early childhood education for the Canadian people. We must have that long term vision of building a stronger country despite the fact that we are going into a recession or an economic slowdown. We have to have the vision of trying to make our country stronger. One way of doing it is by putting more money into research and development, scientific research and the training and education of our people right across the country.

In the years ahead it is knowledge and education that will become power. Knowledge and education will determine whether or not Canada will be a strong country that has a lot of jobs, as opposed to other places in the world.

Our country has been gradually sinking in the last few years. For a number of years according to the United Nations human resource index, Canada was the number one country in the world in which to live. Now we are number three. If we include our aboriginal people, the number is 63 using the same index.

We have a long way to go in terms of improving the human condition. The place to start is with education, training, skills and innovation. Compared to other countries in the OECD, we are not leading the pack. At the very best we are in the middle of the pack in terms of most of these indices. That is where we start. We should also be investing in infrastructure.

A few weeks ago I had a chance to speak in Peterborough, Ontario. I flew to Pearson airport and I rented a car and drove the 150 kilometres to Peterborough. The 401 is a big highway. I thought it would take about three hours on the road. I pulled into Peterborough four hours later because of the congestion on the 401. The member for Markham knows exactly what I mean. All the trucks and cars sitting on the 401 are spewing pollutants into the atmosphere. We wonder why our country has let its infrastructure deteriorate in terms of rail transport and rapid transit.

Europe and the United States have invested a lot more in rapid transit. A lot more freight is moving by rail than in Canada. We heard in our prebudget hearings across Canada that we should be putting a lot more money into rapid transit to move both passengers and freight across the country. It is good for the environment. It is good for the economy. It is good for the country. It has to be a priority. It has to be an investment.

If that is included in the upcoming budget, we will be creating more jobs, strengthening our country, building our infrastructure and saving our environment. There has to be a vision in terms of how we make our country stronger by investing in rail transport.

The same is true on the prairies. I see the parliamentary secretary across the way. If he were to go to my province he would see the consequences of a decision of the federal government many years ago to allow the railways to abandon rail lines, which forced grain companies to build inland terminals and close down elevators in small towns across the prairies.

The Saskatchewan and Manitoba provincial governments have spent millions of dollars building thin membrane highways to carry cars, small trucks and light vehicles. When the rail lines disappeared and were abandoned, big trucks were moving grain on highways which in some cases are like roads that have been bombed in terms of the potholes, ruts and breakage of the thin membrane.

Now millions of dollars have to be spent building thick membrane highways, but we do not have a national highways policy. We are one of the few countries in the world without a national transportation policy.

The hon. member for Churchill knows what I am talking about. In terms of the country's infrastructure, building highways and roads across the prairies, we need some assistance from the federal government. Because of the mistake made by the federal government many years ago by abandoning rail lines, elevator companies were forced to abandon elevators, which forced farmers to truck grain in big trucks on highways and destroy the roads.

It does not make any sense in terms of what has been done to our environment and to the economic viability of rural Saskatchewan.

A lot more money should be spent on cleaning up our drinking water. Walkerton was an example of that last year. North Battleford, St. John's, Newfoundland, and many aboriginal and other communities across Canada have real problems with drinking water. Money should be put into those areas to build a stronger Canada and have a viable country in the years ahead. Money should be put into infrastructure and research and development, two very important places to start.

Third is the whole area of housing. The federal government pretty well withdrew a long time ago from the whole market of affordable housing, social housing and co-op housing. We have heard brief after brief from people across the country talking about a housing crisis; the price of housing in Vancouver and Toronto, big metropolitan areas; and the lack of affordable housing in many communities.

If we want to kick start the economy, if we want to create jobs, if we want to build a stronger Canada to invigorate the economy, one way of doing it quickly is by putting money into housing. For every average house built an average of 2.8 person years of jobs are created.

If we want to kick start the economy, get people back to work, have people paying taxes and keep people off the unemployment insurance rolls, one way of doing that is by building houses. Let us have a national project to build houses across Canada. That is something that should be done.

In addition, the houses are needed. Many people are living in substandard housing. There is a housing crisis. People cannot afford housing. More and more people are facing homelessness in large cities.

When we walk in downtown Ottawa in the morning to the House of Commons, we run across homeless people. We see this in every major city in Canada today. The situation is getting worse instead of better.

It is training and education. It is infrastructure. It is housing. I will mention a fourth area in which the federal government should invest money: the agriculture crisis facing our farmers today not only on the prairies but across the country.

Farmers on the rural prairies are being forced to leave the land. Social problems are being caused by the economic crisis. Small towns are deteriorating. People are moving into the cities. People are going on to the welfare rolls because of the farm crisis.

I will give one example of the prairie farmer and what the prairie farmer is facing. The prairie farmer now gets about nine cents on the dollar from the federal government for support prices. The prairie farmer in the United States who farms in Montana and North Dakota, just across the border from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, gets about 35¢ or 36¢ on the dollar from the federal government of the United States in Washington.

The farmer in France gets about 56¢ on the dollar from Brussels. With 56¢ on the dollar for the European farmer, 35¢ or so for the American farmer and 9¢ for the Manitoba or Saskatchewan farmer, is it any wonder our farmers are going under?

I call on the federal government to implement a decent safety net program or farm support program for our farmers. It is needed and needed now if we want to protect our rural infrastructure, the production of food and the export of grain.

There is no reason at all we could not be spending an extra couple billion dollars a year without violating WTO rules. This is what experts told us before the committee. That is what the federal government should be doing if it wants to protect the family farm and ordinary farmers.

I will go from agriculture to other resources. I think of the crisis in forestry today. I think of the woodworkers that are being laid off across our country. I think of British Columbia that produces half of our softwood lumber. Softwood lumber and timber exports are our single largest exports, even larger than automobiles.

We saw the tariff levied by the United States. We saw yesterday the increase in the duties and charges on dumping Canadian lumber into the United States. Our government has to take a very strong stand to make sure these duties are rolled back so that we have a level playing field for Canadian workers in the forestry and lumber industries. That is how to create jobs.

On one hand the Americans applaud us for being great friends in their campaigns, but on the other hand their policies are laying off thousands of Canadian men and women across the country, particularly in the province of British Columbia. Our government must take a strong stand in doing what it can to make sure that this unfair practice by the United States is stopped right away.

These are some of the things that we have to do. If we are to get the country back on its feet, if we are to have a stronger Canadian dollar in terms of its purchasing power for the things we import, we have to build a stronger economy and a stronger country.

I am concerned about the erosion of our country, the sellout of our economy by more and more things going to the United States. Just last June, for example, the federal government decided to privatize the administration of Canada savings bonds to a company based in Texas.

I ask the parliamentary secretary why the government would do this. Some 60, 70 or 100 people who were doing this before in the public sector were laid off. These jobs are now in the private sector with call centres in Mississauga and Ottawa. Why privatize what was done by the Bank of Canada to Electronic Data Systems headquartered in Texas?

Canada savings bonds are a great symbol of our nationalism. I do not think the Americans would ever do this. Yet we are doing it as a country.

This is just one of many examples of what we are doing wrong: how we are selling out our country, how we are selling out the soul of our country instead of creating a country where we do more things for ourselves; where we do more upgrading of our natural resources; where we do more manufacturing, more research, more development, more education and produce more of our own commodities. Those are some of the things that are extremely important.

Then there is health care. We heard this morning from the Canadian Medical Association and the national nurses union at the finance committee in the railway committee room about the problems in health care and how the federal government cutbacks in 1995 have hurt our health care system and put it in jeopardy.

I am reminded that the medicare idea was brought to Canada by such pioneers at Tommy Douglas, Stanley Knowles and people in the CCF and the NDP who back in the 1960s forced the minority Liberal government led by Lester Pearson to implement national health care.

We were told at that time that health care was funded on a 50:50 basis by the federal government and by the provinces so that the federal government could have a publicly administered system, a single payer system with some clout in terms of uniformity across the country in the delivery of services of health care.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

An hon. member

Now look what they have done.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

As my friend from Vancouver says, look at what they have done. The Liberals must be hanging their heads in shame about what their party and what their government have done to health care. The cash transfers have been cut back. What does the federal government fund now? Is it 14, 15, 16 or 17¢ on the dollar as cash transfers to the provinces?

I know the parliamentary secretary says they are getting tax points, but he should have heard the CMA and the nurses this morning when they talked about tax points. If tax points are transferred to the provinces to cover some of the costs of health care, at the very best about 30% to 35% is being covered. However the power of the federal government is also being forfeited to enforce national standards. If there is a transfer of cash the federal government can withhold the cash to the provinces for implementing user fees, setting up private clinics or violating the Canada Health Act.

If Ralph Klein decides to violate the Canada Health Act and the federal government is only putting about 13% or 14% of the cash into an economy as strong as that of Alberta, Ralph Klein can just thumb his nose at the federal government.

I know the parliamentary secretary had to be here this morning when I was at the finance committee, but if he were there to hear the CMA, the nurses union and other people express their concern that the federal government must eventually fund once again half the cost of medicare or health care in terms of cash transfers, I am sure he would be moved by the argument. He would lobby the Minister of Finance to mend his conservative ways and go back to a national health care program eventually funded 50:50 by the provinces and by the federal government.

That is what we need. We need a strong federal government with a vision of making this our Canada, making this a stronger country, making this a country of which we are very proud. That is what should be happening in the budget that will be before us in the next month.

We should be leading the way in terms of a new international vision or a new world order to come to grips with some of the problems we have today because of starvation, famine, the AIDS pandemic in Africa and the like. We should be leading the way by articulating a vision of an international economic development organization that starts putting money into poor countries of the world and a vision of a modern day Marshall plan for the development of places like Africa and to make sure that places like Afghanistan have a chance to develop and their people have quality of life, some food to eat, some medical services, some housing and some education.

Those are the kinds of things we should be doing internationally. When the Minister of Finance goes to the IMF, the World Bank, the G-20 and other international fora, he should be speaking proudly of the motion we passed in the House two years ago to endorse the idea of the Tobin tax, a small tax on the speculation of currency around the world. I proposed that private member's motion which was carried by the House in a vote of 164 to 83 in March 1999.

This would go a long way to curbing some of the speculation on currencies we see today. Speculation is one of the problems we are having with our dollar: speculation on our dollar and on other currencies and the retreat of currencies into the United States as people visualize it as a bigger and stronger economy.

Our minister should have an international vision of some order and some regulation in terms of currencies in the world, a vision of putting more and more money into international development. If we had a Tobin tax in the world today where more than $1 trillion a day is speculated on currency markets, a small tax of 0.1% to 0.5% would create an international development fund of several hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars each and every year.

Let us imagine the kind of world we would have if we could spend tens of billions of dollars a year on international development.

Today we spend about $10 billion a year on the United Nations and the world spends about $800 billion U.S. on armaments and military equipment. We should flip those priorities around. Our country should be leading the way with that kind of international economic and social vision, which would help make this country strong.

Prebudget Consultation
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Serge Marcil Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a comment to follow up on my earlier question.

I would like to say that in today's issue of Le Quotidien , November 1, Minister Guy Chevrette, a member of the Parti Quebecois government in Quebec City, said that the budget was designed to help boost the economy:

Guy Chevrette promises that Ms. Marois' budget this afternoon will help boost the economy.

Without giving away any secrets, the minister of transportation indicated that the emphasis would be placed on creating and maintaining jobs, and not on increasing spending for services.

People will be critical because we are not increasing spending on services, but in order to act as a responsible government, we must support the economy, which is the government's source of revenue.

This was the context in which I asked the question of my colleague. I wanted to hear the Bloc Quebecois' opinion on its counterpart in Quebec City, the Parti Quebecois, regarding the direction that Canada's finance minister should give to his budget.